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Memorable Olympics Moments -- Gabrielle Andersen-Schiess Finishes the 1984 Marathon

Yahoo! is sponsoring a series of posts on 'Memorable Moments' from the Summer Olympic Games. The tendency for SBNation's NBA bloggers is understandlably to migrate to basketball highlights and when we first found out about this assignment, more than one NBA blogger thought immediately of Vince Carter's insane dunk on Frederic Weis from the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Le Dunk de la Mort as the French media dubbed it (the Dunk of Death). As it happens, I've referenced that dunk many, many times on ClipsNation in the past, most recently discussing how it compared to Blake Griffin's Mozgov dunk.

But I have no real personal attachment to that dunk. I don't even think I saw it live -- I can't imagine why I wasn't watching USA-France in 2000, but I don't think I was. I have little connection to that dunk other than as a video clip.

There are tons of Olympic basketball memories that I do have a direct connection with, but somehow none of them seem like great stories to tell. I'm old enough to remember watching the Gold Medal match from Munich in 1972 when the end of the game was replayed multiple times, enough times for the Soviets to finally win (which makes me old enough to remember the tragedy of Israeli athletes being killed as well of course). But that story has been told too many times.

I remember the 1984 team that featured the pre-Dream-Team Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing (but not Charles Barkley, who was cut in try outs if I recall correctly). I watched that team play live several times, but with the Soviet bloc's boycott keeping both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia out of those Games, the competition was essentially meaningless (and probably served to keep USA Basketball complacent and overconfident far too long).

Seoul 88 saw the US collegians lose the Gold against superior eastern bloc teams. Barcelona 92 was of course the first Dream Team, which was memorable more for Barkley throwing elbows at star struck Angolans than anything resembling competitive basketball. Atlanta 96 and Sydney 2000 provided little drama aside from Carter's dunk. And all the memories of USA Basketball from Athens 2004 are sad ones, though Sarunas Jasikevicius' performance against Team USA during group play was exciting for any fan of clutch shooting.

Eventually I realized that my own memorable Olympic moments are not really of basketball, which tends to be less memorable at the Olympic level than it is in the NBA. But growing up, the Olympics were appointment viewing in our house. For 206 consecutive weeks, no one in the Perrin household cared about how much splash a diver made or whether a gymnast stuck the landing, but for two weeks every four years we became avid fans and experts on the most arcane sports. Suddenly dad was regaling the family with stories of wrestlers he knew at Oklahoma State and the time he tried to pole vault in high school. Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci and Mark Spitz and countless other Olympians have captivated me over the years.

The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles of course hold a particular place in my memory. I was a Pepperdine student at the time, and Olympic events were sprinkled throughout the southland, including water polo within walking distance of my dorm room. I vividly remember the extensive ticket order form, with hundreds of events and first and second choices in case requested tickets were sold out. As a family we attended dozens of events in dozens of SoCal venues -- basketball at the Forum, water polo in Malibu, volleyball in Long Beach, swimming and diving at USC, and of course track and field at the Coliseum. I remember how all the forecasts of nightmare traffic turned out to be overblown, how amazingly there was less traffic during the 84 Olympics than any other time.

I saw Karch Kiraly and his teammates win Olympic gold in volleyball before he became a beach god. I saw Jordan play Olympic basketball before he ever wore a Chicago Bulls uniform, eight years before the Dream Team was formed. I saw Carl Lewis sprint and long jump his way to multiple Gold medals. I saw Tracy Caulkins swim.

But if I'm honest with myself, my most vivid memory is of a previously anonymous participant in the Women's Marathon. The Women's Marathon was newsworthy in 1984 in that it was the first time it was contested at the Olympics and because American Joan Benoit was considered the favorite. I was in the Coliseum that day when Benoit won the Gold as expected. But as other events were occurring around the stadium, we in the crowd were aghast when another runner entered, fully 20 minutes after Benoit had finished.

No one knew who Gabrielle Andersen-Schiess was as she staggered painfully into the Stadium, clearly suffering from a severe case of heat exhaustion. Knowing basically only that she was competing for Switzerland, we all assumed that she was more accustomed to the cool of the Alps than to Southern California heat, only finding out later that she lived in Idaho and had trained in California.

Of course what we remember most is her determination. Event staff rushed to aid her, but she shooed them away, knowing that if they touched her she'd be disqualified. She was determined to finish the first ever Women's Olympic marathon, and the concerned medical personnel watched closely but decided to acquiesce to her wishes. For almost six full minutes, the entire stadium watched breathlessly as she stumbled around the track, barely able to control her legs, her left arm hanging limply at her side. It was at once harrowing, heart-breaking and inspiring. When she collapsed across the finish line, the stadium erupted in cheers -- perhaps the most heralded 37th place finish in Olympic history.

And with apologies to Vince Carter, that is my most memorable Olympic moment.


Celebrate the most compelling moments in Summer Games history with 'Memorable Moments' on Yahoo! Sports. Re-live moments such as Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10s in Montreal, Michael Phelps' record eight gold medals in Beijing, Carl Lewis' unforgettable four gold medals in Los Angeles, the spectacular success of the 1992 US Dream Team, Muhammad Ali in Rome and Atlanta, and any more!

These special moments are showcased through exclusive video, iconic photos, and stories on Yahoo!'s hub dedicated to the coverage of the Games. Enjoy the unique storytelling from Yahoo! Sports' award-winning writers and experts, as well as through the lens of Yahoo!'s users themselves.

Check out Memorable Moments on Yahoo! Sports!