The most inspirational Olympic stories tell tales of athletes who overcame great obstacles, triumphed after heartbreaking losses and accomplished great things in the face of adversity. They didn't all go home with a gold medal but these brave, talented and relentless athletes defied the odds to provide inspiration to people around the globe.
It's easy to single out people who were the first to do something at the Olympics, like Mary Lou Retton, the first female gymnast from outside of Eastern Europe to win an all-around gymnastics title, or John Baxter Taylor, the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal, for example, but believe it or not there are many athletes with more inspirational stories than that.
One of the most famous is the Miracle on Ice story from 1980. No one expected the United States Olympic Ice Hockey
Team to even challenge the Soviet team let alone beat them but in what was named top sports moment of the century by Sports Illustrated
, the team pulled off a major upset and won the gold medal.
African-American sprinter Jesse Owens spoiled the plans of Adolf Hitler as he won big at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius lost both legs as an infant but still managed to compete against the best in the world at the 2012 London Olympics. The famous Jamaican National Bobsled Team competed at the 1988 Olympics despite not having proper training facilities in their tropical nation. All are just a few examples of those who didn't give up, instead using that static for motivation and eventually inspiration to others.
It's cliche to say that anything can be accomplished if someone puts their mind to it but these inspirational Olympians are the examples of just that. These athletes were never on the list of the most promising Olympic athletes
and never seen as the favorite but they persevered and gave it their best. They never gave up, they finished what they started and they didn't let bumps in the road defer them from making their dreams come true.
And for even more reason to tune into to the 2012 Summer Olympics, check out this list of the hottest women on the US team