Top 10 Greatest Moments In Sport

What makes a great sporting moment?

Is it how it makes us feel? Is it the massive milestone it represents? Is it the breaking of records and setting of benchmarks?

There’s something about great sporting moments that lift us up above the every day and inspire us to do better; those inspirational sports moments remind us of the almost limitless potential of the human spirit.

Other moments just make us sit in drop-jawed awe at unexpected and seemingly impossible feats of endurance, strength and skill.

However you define it, the great sporting moments of our time are something to celebrate, and we’ve put together a collection of some of our favourite inspirational sports moments.

#1. Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympic Games, 1936

When it comes to inspirational sports moments, you can’t pass up Jesse Owens’ phenomenal performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Hilter himself watched on as Owens obliterated Hitler’s so-called “superior Aryan athletes”, claiming four gold medals with apparent ease.

Through the lens of history, this is one of the most inspirational sports moments of all time, occurring at a time when the world was on the precipice of destructive war, and made all the more poignant knowing that Owens’ real and symbolic victory was undermined by his return to segregated America.

#2. Roger Bannister breaks the 4-minute mile mark

The year was 1954.

Member of the Amateur Athletic Association and 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister lined up against members of his old university, Oxford, at Iffley Road Track.

A stiff crosswind was blowing as Bannister prepared to race, head no doubt full of new scientific methods and running mechanics he’d developed throughout his training.

The starting gun fired and in a mere 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds, Bannister’s chest broke the tape at the finish line. Scorekeepers only announced the first number of Bannister’s time before the rest was swamped by thunderous applause.

Bannister had done it — he’d broken the legendary 4-minute mile barrier. Although this mark has been broken many times since by modern athletes, nothing compares to that history-making moment.

#3. “The Shot” – Michael Jordan

In one of the most iconic last-minute movie-perfect sporting moments of all time, Michael Jordan snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the dying seconds of the deciding 5th game of the 1989 Eastern Conference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Chicago Bulls 100-99 in an eliminating round game with all to play for. With 3 seconds left on the clock, Jordan receives the ball and seems to hang impossibly in the air for a heart-stopping moment, then shoots with utter calm and poise, the ball sailing right through the net as the buzzer sounds, sending the watching Chicago fans wild and the Bulls through to the playoffs.

#4. Shane Warne’s ball of the century

On the second day of the first Test of the 1993 Ashes series, English batsman Mike Gatting prepared to face Shane Warne, bowling his first ever ball in an Ashes Test.

Gatting stood poised and confident as the bleach-blond zinc-coated Aussie made his slow approach of just a few paces.

The delivery sailed towards him looking like a standard leg-spin. Gatting prepared an appropriate defence, thrusting his left leg forward and angling his bat downwards beside his pad, a move that would surely deflect the delivery safely.

To Gatting’s – and everyone else’s – utter surprise, the ball turned far more than expected and sailed straight past his bat, clipping his off stump and sending the bails flying.

Gatting stood stunned for a few moments before conceding defeat and walking back to the pavilion with a look of pure bafflement on his face as the Aussie team celebrated around him.

The ball of the century represented not just a phenomenal delivery but a turning point in bowling history, bringing about a surge in leg-spin bowling popularity. Relive the glory below.

#5. Cathy Freeman wins gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

For anyone old enough to remember the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the standout moment had to be Cathy Freeman’s 400m victory.

From her iconic running suit to her career-defining run and victory lap draped in the Aboriginal flag, Freeman’s moment that September day was seemingly straight out any child’s dreams of Olympic glory, thundering home in front of a home crowd of over 112,000 cheering spectators.

Freeman later explained she was underwhelmed by her performance, stating:

“Some of my brain is very business-like. At the time, as soon as I crossed the line, I was very matter-of-fact about it. I was a bit disappointed about the time.”

For those watching in the stadium and across Australia, it was the culminating moment of the national excitement and hype that had been building for months, even years.

#6. Eliud Kipchoge runs the first ever sub-2-hour marathon

Although controversial among running purists, Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2-hour marathon is still one of the great sporting moments of our time. A combination of raw talent, extreme training and sheer determination, Kipchoge’s feat was nothing short of miraculous.

With his entourage of pace runners and support crew, Kipchoge set out on the streets of Vienna in October 2019 to see if what many experts deemed humanly impossible could be done – cracking the 2-hour marathon.

Sure enough, 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds later, he did it.

Only time will tell if this feat will be accomplished under race conditions, but Kipchoge’s achievement still stands as a legendary moment of human endeavour.

Want an idea of just how incredible Kipchoge’s achievement was? Check out this footage of runners trying to keep up with Kipchoge’s pace of just under 4 minutes 35 seconds per mile, or 2 minutes 50 seconds per kilometre.

#7. Alex Honnold free solo climbs El Capitan

Free soloing, the act of climbing rocks and buildings without any ropes, harnessing or support, is a sport so extreme most of us go sweaty-palmed and shaky-kneed at the mere thought of it.

But for the elite few who attempt this beyond-extreme sport, free soloing is the ultimate challenge and something they face with calm, clarity and devout preparation.

Thanks to the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo”, the world at large was introduced to the sport and to its greatest athlete: Alex Honnold.

In June 2017, Alex achieved his long-held wish of scaling El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park as a free soloist.

The 2,307 metre tall smooth, sheer granite wall usually takes climbers days or weeks to complete.

Honnold managed it in just under 4 hours.

Scaling El Capitan without ropes was something so outside the realms of possibility it had never before been considered. Now that the impossible has been achieved by Honnold it makes us wonder what other “impossible” things will one day be achieved.

#8. Simone Biles Nails First-Ever Triple-Double Twist

The greatest gymnast of all time and still in her early twenties at the time, Simone Biles summed it up when she said, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps – I’m the first Simone Biles.”

The record-breaking gymnast first shot to world superstardom at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where she scooped three gold medals and one bronze – but that was just the beginning for Biles.

In 2019, she made history with a gravity-defying Triple-Double Twist, the first of its kind to be landed in competition and one of many incredible and inspiring sports moments achieved in her career.

#9. Michelle Payne rides to Melbourne Cup victory

In 2015, after 150 years of the race being run, Michelle Payne became the first woman to ride to victory in the Melbourne Cup. Riding 6-year-old gelding Prince of Penzance, Payne came in at 100-1 in an emotional victory that meant so much more to her than fame or riches.

Payne’s own words after her landmark victory sum up the significance of the moment:

“It’s such a chauvinistic sport. I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off, and John Richards and Darren stuck strongly with me, and I put in all the effort I could and galloped him all I could because I thought he had what it takes to win the Melbourne Cup.”

“I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world.”

Perhaps one of the most moving moments for all of us watching at home was the moment she reunited with her strapper and younger brother Stevie.

#10. Tony Hawk lands first ever 900

Tony Hawk is no stranger to nailing world firsts in skating – in fact, he literally invented over 80 boundary-pushing vert skating tricks – but there was one trick that eluded him for 10 years: the 900.

Described as “the 4-minute mile of skating”, the 900 is a 2 and a half revolution, or 900-degree, aerial spin and is considered one of the most technically difficult tricks in skating.

Tony described landing the first-ever 900 after 10 failed attempts at the 1999 X-Games as “the best day of my life”.

Why the world needs these great sporting moments

It can be easy to pass off sport as frivolous or mere entertainment – after all, it’s “only a game”, right? But for so many of us, these great sporting moments represent times when we felt uplifted, inspired, spurred on or simply downright impressed by the efforts of our fellow humans. Whether it was a show of pure strength and athleticism or a symbolic victory over oppression we look to these inspirational sports moments to make us remember what we’re all capable of.

Are you a fellow sporting fanatic? Join the TopSport team today!