30 Photos of Iconic Moments from Summer Olympics Through the Years

From incredible feats of strength to powerful displays of sportsmanship, check out these iconic Summer Olympics moments from the last 60 years 

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1960

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
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Muhammad Ali stood on the podium after winning the gold medal for light heavyweight boxing at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

The legendary boxer later threw the medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a white-owned restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. He was awarded a new one at the 1996 Summer Games.

02 of 31

1960

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Bettmann Archive

Wilma Rudolph earned her title of "The Fastest Woman in the World" after she dominated the 1960 Summer Olympics and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at the same Olympic games.

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1960

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Allsport Hulton/Archive

American Otis Davis narrowly beat Germany's Carl Kaufmann in the final of the 400m sprint at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Both men broken the Olympic and world records, coming in at 44.9 seconds.

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1964

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
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Marathoner Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won gold at the 1964 Games, setting a world record of 2 hours, 12.11 minutes while he was at it. He became the first athlete to win consecutive marathons. In 1960, he won the race barefooted and was the first East African person to win an Olympic medal.

05 of 31

1968

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Bettmann Archive

On the podium at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos — who won the gold and bronze medalists in the 200m run — raised their fists in protest of what Smith later called human rights issues. Australian Peter Norman, who won silver, stood by them, wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Smith and Carlos were suspended from Team USA and Norman was widely criticized in his home country and was blacklisted from the sport.

06 of 31

1968

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Gymnast Vera Caslavska of Czechoslovakia became the first competitor in Olympic history to win four individual gold medals in one Olympics. Here, she shows off three gold and one silver.

07 of 31

1972

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

At the 1972 games in Munich, the United States basketball team protested the medal ceremony after their first loss in the sport since 1936. The loss is counted as one of the most dramatic moments in Olympic history.

08 of 31

1972

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Bettmann Archive

Gymnast Olga Korbut, 17, represented the Soviet Union at the 1972 games, earning three gold medals. She was the first gymnast to ever perform a back flip the uneven bars — known as the "Korbut Flip" — in which she stood on the high bar, executed a backflip, and grabbed onto the bar again. The trick was later banned because it was too risky.

She was also the first Olympic gymnast to do a backward somersault on the beam.

09 of 31

1976

Vasily Alexeyev
Alamy Stock Photo

Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev won the gold medal and set a new Olympic Record for the Soviet Union team in the super heavyweight weighlifting class during the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. He set 80 world records and 81 Soviet records throughout his career.

10 of 31

1976

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Bettmann Archive

At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded a perfect 10 for her uneven bars routine.

She would manage to score six more perfect 10s and three gold medals.

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1984

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
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Eight years later, American gymnast Mary Lou Retton rose to popularity as she dominated the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She scored two perfect 10s for her vaults and floor exercise, winning the individual all-round gold.

She became the first female gymnast outside of Eastern Europe to win that prize.

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1988

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
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In 1988, American Florence Griffith Joyner, a.k.a. Flo-Jo, broke records in the 100m and 200m race that still stand today: she is the fastest woman of all time!

She won three gold medals at the summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

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1988

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

At the 1988 Olympics, Team USA's Greg Louganis hit his head on the board while diving. Even after that accident, he managed to qualify for the final and win the gold.

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1992

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Susan Ragan/AP/Shutterstock

In 1992, Team USA's "Dream Team" included basketball powerhouses like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and more. The team marked the first time that current NBA players competed in the Olympics for the United States. They went home with the gold.

The team was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009.

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1996

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Mike Powell/Getty Images

In one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history, USA gymnast Kerri Strug hurt herself during her first vault when she landed awkwardly on her ankle. Instead of sitting out of her second vault, she went for it, stuck the landing, and helped Team USA snag their first-ever team gold medal.

16 of 31

1996

Image
Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated/Getty; Inset: Mike Coppola/WireImage

In 1996, the USA women's gymnastic's team was dubbed the "Magnificent Seven" for a reason!

After her teammate's injury, Dominique Dawes took her place in the individual floor exercise and won the bronze. In doing so, the 19-year-old made history as the first Black American to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.

17 of 31

2000

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Getty Images

At the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Cathy Freeman became the first Australian Aboriginal person to win an individual Olympic gold medal when she won the women's 400m race.

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2000

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Mike Powell /Allsport

In 2000, Eric Moussambani was a wildcard entry for Equatorial Guinea. The athlete had learned how to swim just eight months prior to his Olympic showing and had never seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before competing.

In an unlikely turn of events, his competitors were disqualified for false starts and he was the only one in the pool during his heat. He completed the race with a time of 1:52.72, and set the record for the slowest time in Olympic history.

19 of 31

2004

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

It's hard to believe it now, but even Michael Phelps had to start somewhere! After competing at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 at 15 years old, the now-legendary U.S. swimmer won his first medal at the 2004 games in Athens — and he didn't stop there. Phelps won eight medals, six of them gold, and tied the record for most medals in a single Olympics.

20 of 31

2004

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
David Ashdown/Getty Images

In 2004, Team USA's Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor won the gold medal in women's beach volleyball without losing a single set in all seven of their matches. The duo would go on to win gold together again in both 2008 and 2012.

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2008

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years

In 2008, Jamaica's Usain Bolt burst onto the scene (and lived up to his last name), winning gold and breaking the world record with a smile on his face.

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2008

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
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In 2008, the world was introduced to Team USA gymnastics powerhouse Shawn Johnson. The 16-year-old took home a gold for her beam performance and silvers in women's team, women's individual all-around and women's floor exercise.

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2008

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

In 2008, Michael Phelps continued breaking records when he won his 14th career gold medal — marking the most gold medals won by any Olympian. He earned eight gold medals in 2008 in total, setting new world records with all but one.

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2008

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

In Beijing in 2008, the "Dream Team" became the "Redeem Team," and their goal was to earn the United States the gold medal after they came up short in the 2004 games. Kobe Bryant was the team captain, leading the squad to a gold medal win.

Other teammates included Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

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2012

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Michael Phelps. MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

In 2012, Michael Phelps again dominated the Olympics, increasing his medal count to 22 and setting a new record for the most Olympic medals.

26 of 31

2012

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dubbed as the Fierce Five, the 2012 U.S. women's gymnastics team consisted of McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross.

The Fierce Five followed in the footsteps of The Magnificent Seven, becoming the second U.S. gymnastics team to win the team competition.

The women provided plenty of entertainment at the games: Douglas became the first African American to win a gold medal in the individual all-around, Maroney became a meme when she pulled a disappointed face after winning the silver medal on vault and Raisman won the team a bronze on beam and gold on floor exercise.

27 of 31

2016

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The Bolt is back! in 2016, Usain Bolt became the only man to win all three sprint events at three Olympic Games. He has nine gold medals to his name.

28 of 31

2016

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Ian Walton/Getty Images

During the women's 5000m race in Rio in 2016, New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin clipped Abbey D'Agostino of the United States and the pair fell over onto the track. In an act of incredible sportsmanship, D'Agostino helped Hamblin up, insisting, "We have to finish this." When D'Agostino later collapsed in pain, her competitor urged her on as well.

Though the women finished behind everyone else, they were both awarded places in the finals, however, D'Agostino tore her ACL in the collision and wasn't able to compete.

29 of 31

2016

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Michael Phelps at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Adam Pretty/Getty Images

In 2016, his final Olympic showing, Michael Phelps made history by becoming the first American male swimmer to earn a spot on five Olympic teams.

That year, in Rio, Phelps became the first swimmer to win four consecutive golds in the same event, the 200m individual medley.

He also earned his 23rd gold medal, bringing his total medal tally up to 28, the most of any Olympian.

30 of 31

2016

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
David Ramos/Getty Images

Dubbed the Final Five — the U.S. women's gymnastics team loves an alliterative moniker! — newcomers Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian joined the Fab Five's Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman to lead Team USA to their third team gold medal in the all-around event.

Combined, the women won seven medals in individual events. Biles wowed the world by taking home three golds and a bronze, Raisman earned two silver medals, Hernandez scored a silver on the beam and Kocian earned a silver on the uneven bars.

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Bonus: 2012

Incredible Photos From the Summer Olympics Through the Years
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

They're not athletes, but Kate Middleton and Prince William pretty much won the gold medal for most enthusiastic fans at the 2012 Olympics in London.

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