Gold-medal memories

Each Olympic Games has its own magic and memories.

We all have pictures in our minds of special Olympic moments that remain vivid and continue to inspire us to strive for our best.

Like the string of postcards one buys in a pack, we file through them now and again to have a peek, to bring a smile.

Do you remember Greg Joy's face when he won a silver in high jump at the 1976 Montreal Olympics?

The unsung Joy won his medal on a rainy day when Canadians needed a hero. Canada was the only host country not to win a gold, but Joy made us feel golden.

The Olympics are also full of stories of heroism, both on and off the field of play.

During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Canadian yachtsman Larry Lemieux gave up a likely medal to help two Singapore men, sailing in a different class, who had capsized.

Lemieux left his race to save the pair.

"I saw the head of the second crew member bobbing in the water. He was far away from the boat . . . I decided that I better do something," Lemieux said.

He was given a symbolic award for his bravery.

I asked Free Press editorial employees for their favourite Games' stories.

Although some centred around Canadian athletes, these stories show the universal appeal of the Olympics.

- Copy editor Susan Greer recalled the inspirational story of Kerri Strug, the U.S. gymnast who won the team title for the Americans on her final vault at the 1996 Olympics. She performed with torn ligaments in her ankle, an injury she suffered on her previous vault. The tiny Strug collapsed to the mat in obvious pain after securing the gold and had to be carried to the medal podium.

- Sports columnist Morris Dalla Costa said his favourite memory was watching U.S. runner Dave Wottle compete with his white hat at the 1972 Games. Dalla Costa was mesmerized watching Wottle's 800-metre race on TV.

"Wottle came from last place on the backstretch of the last lap. The silly white cap he forgot to remove making its way, almost magically, past every single runner until at last the dream he had chased was attained." Wottle finished first by just .03 seconds.

- Remember the 1964 Canadian bobsledding team led by Vic Emery? What an upset when the team won Canada's only gold medal of the 1964 Games and our first gold in bobsledding.

"They had the steel grey bobsled with the maple leaf on front," recalled entertainment writer Noel Gallagher.

- Sports writer Steve Coad will always remember the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when Canada won gold in men's and women's hockey.

"I was so proud of the men's hockey team because I thought they were brilliant, start to finish," Coad said. "For all that Wayne Gretzky has accomplished, I don't think I've ever been prouder of a Canadian hockey player.

"Hayley Wickenheiser was so passionate after the Canadians overcame all of the penalties and won the gold medal."

- Sports reporter Jim Cressman, also a baseball umpire, and the lone Canadian umpiring at the 1988 Games, recalled being in a cab one night with a U.S. umpire. The Korean driver asked, "Country?"

"I said, 'Canada.' The driver yelled, 'Ben Johnson! Ben Johnson!' and tramped on the gas," Cressman said. "After several hundred metres speeding down the street, the cab driver turned to the American umpire and asked, 'Country?'

"He replied, 'United States.' The cab driver took his foot off the gas and slowed down and said, 'Carl Lewis, Carl Lewis.' He then looked at me again, tramped on the gas, shouting 'Ben Johnson! Ben Johnson!' "

This was before Johnson was stripped of his gold in the 100 metres, Cressman said.

Other stories mentioned celebrate the Olympic ideals.

- British runner Derek Redmond's father coming from the stands to help his son cross the line in the 400 metres. Redmond injured his hamstring and could hardly walk. He pushed his father away at first.

Redmond told his father, "I've got to finish this race." His dad replied, "If you're gonna finish the race, we'll finish it together."

Love conquers all.

- Swiss marathoner Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss (suffering from heat exhaustion) staggering across the finish line at the 1984 Games.

The human spirit has such strength.

- Romania's Nadia Comaneci receiving perfect marks in 1976. She was the first gymnast to be awarded 10s.

Perfection is possible.

- Canadian rower Silken Laumann winning bronze in a gutsy race in 1992. Doctors said she might not row again when, 10 weeks earlier, she suffered an accident on the water, breaking her leg and shredding muscle.

Believing makes anything possible.

- British ski jumper Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards ski jumping his way into the history books. He finished last at the Calgary Olympics, but he became the world's darling.

Try, laugh, imagine.

The Turin Olympics will also have magic moments.

Enjoy.