Top 14 performances from the past 14 Olympic Games

The Olympic Games always bring plenty of drama and exciting performances. While we’re sure this year won’t disappoint, we’re going to take a look at the best performances in the 56 years since the Games last visited Tokyo.


1. Tokyo, Japan, 1964 – Sir Peter Snell winning the 800m and 1500m

Former New Zealand middle-distance runner Sir Peter George Snell earned his place in history when he became the only male since 1920 to win both the 1500m and 800m at the Olympics Games, and this performance has not been achieved by any male athlete at the Games since.

2. Mexico City, Mexico, 1968 – The Fosbury Flop

While it may be considered the standard technique in high jumping today, Dick Fosbury’s Fosbury Flop was anything but normal at the time. He broke the world record while changing the face of high jumping forever with his method. 

3. Munich, West Germany, 1972 – Mark Spitz’s Olympic performance

Having predicted he would win six golds at the Mexico Games, but only securing two, competitive swimmer Mark Spitz had a lot to prove in 1972. In Munich he made sure to come out on top, taking home seven golds and setting seven world records in the process. This was the most dominate Olympic Game performance of its time.

4. Montreal, Canada, 1976 – Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10

You know you have done something good when your performance is so perfect the scoreboard can’t display it. That is exactly what happened to gymnast Nadia Comaneci when she scored the Olympic Games’ first perfect 10. The Romanian became a celebrity overnight. 

5. Moscow, Soviet Union, 1980 – Three in a row.

Teófilo Stevenson may be the greatest heavyweight Olympic boxer ever. His 1980 performance in Moscow was the icing on the cake when he became the first to ever win three Olympic gold medals in the heavyweight division in a row (1972, 1976, 1980). Competing for his country meant more to him than anything, he was famously offered $5 million to challenge world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, in declining he said: “What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?”.

6. Los Angeles, United States, 1984 – Greg Louganis, the greatest Olympic diver ever?

Despite being a favourite in the 1980 summer Olympic Games in Moscow, diver Greg Louganis had to wait a further four years for his chance to shine due to the USA boycott of the games that year. He certainly did not waste the opportunity. He blew the competition away, becoming the only male diver to sweep both platform and springboard gold. His total score in the springboard event was 754.41, which was 100 points more than the silver medallist. He captured both golds again in Seoul, and is the only man in Olympic history to do so in two consecutive Games.

7. Seoul, South Korea, 1988 – Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.62 second 100-metre

Going into the Olympic Games, Florence Griffith-Joyner was already considered the favourite for the 200-metres. However, she stormed the 100-metre event as well, while also posting a world record in the 200 metres, first with a time of 21.56 seconds in the semi-finals then a time of 21.34 seconds in the final. Not only did she win both individual disciplines by considerable margins, she also picked up a silver in the 4×400 metres and a gold in the 4×100 metres. Both her records still stand today. 

8. Barcelona, Spain, 1992 – A moment that touched everyone; Redmond and his father show the true spirit of The Games

This list may be filled with gold medals and world records, but despite being a favourite for the 400m in Barcelona, Derek Redmond achieved neither. The British runner experienced his worst nightmare when he tore his hamstring half-way through the semi-final race. He didn’t want to give up, and, despite being in intense pain, tried to finish the race. His father emerged from the crowd and helped him through, letting him cross the line himself.

9. Atlanta, United States, 1996 – Johnson smashes two world track records

If there is one thing that is better than smashing two world records and taking home two gold medals, it is doing so in your home country. Which is exactly what Michael Johnson achieved in Atlanta. Johnson won gold in the 400m with an Olympic Games record time of 43.49 seconds then backed this up with a world record time of 19.32 seconds in the 200m final (where he strained his leg causing him to miss out on the 4x400m relay). He became the only man in history to win the 200m and the 400m gold medals at a single Olympic Games.

10. Sydney, Australia, 2000 – The biggest Olympic Games upset in history?

Alexander Karelin was one of the biggest certainties of the Sydney Games. The Russian was a three-time defending wrestling champion and had never allowed a point in the last decade. His opponent, Rulon Gardner, had only competed in one international tournament before. However, he won the super heavyweight gold in wrestling, snatching it from the greatest wrestler of all time. 

11. Athens, Greece, 2004 – The youngest and oldest to do it; Birgit Fischer

Canoeist Birgit Fischer cemented her status as one of the greatest athletes of all time by returning to the Olympic Games in 2004, despite previously announcing her retirement. She just couldn’t resist another attempt at triumph. What is even more remarkable about Birgit, is that she won her first gold medal in Moscow (1980). Picking up a gold in Athens meant she became both the youngest and oldest ever Olympic canoeing champion. 

12. Beijing, China, 2008 – Michael Phelps’ Olympic performance

This was a year to remember! Of course, we should give an honourable mention to the great Usain Bolt for breaking three world records that year. But 2008 has to belong to Michael Phelps, who recorded the greatest finish in Olympic swimming history, taking home eight gold medals. 

13. London, United Kingdom, 2012 – Super Mo

There were so many great British performances at the London Olympic Games – who can forget Super Saturday? However, we’ve got to give the year to Mo Farah, who won both the 5,000-metres and the 10,000-metres, this was Great Britain’s first Olympic Games gold medal in the 10,000 m. On 29 November 2019, Farah announced his plan to return to the track to defend his 10,000m Olympic Games title at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

14. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016 – Simone Biles shines with five medals

Finally, we have the American gymnast, Simone Biles, who created Olympic history in Rio, winning four gold medals and a bronze. She contributed to a historic feat for the gymnastics team, with USA claiming a medal on every apparatus for the first time since 1984. With four Olympic gold medals, Biles set an American record for most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Games.


There has been a lot of excitement over the years, and 2020 is sure to provide more incredible highs. Who do you think is going to steal the show in Tokyo this time around?

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