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Berlin 1936: Jesse OwensThe Berlin Olympics were intended by Adolf Hitler to prove his theories of Aryan racial supremacy. Jesse Owens, the black grandson of Alabaman slaves, ruined it for him. Owen won four gold medals, the 100m and 200m, the long jump and 4 x 100m relay. The story that Hitler refused to present his gold after the 100 is a myth, and although the Nazi propaganda newspapers referred to him and his team-mates as 'black auxiliaries', he became the star of Hitler-favourite Leni Riefenstahl's official film of the Games. Indeed, the snub to Owens came from US president FD Roosevelt, who never sent a letter of congratulations or invited him to the White House.
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Beijing 2008: Usain BoltWith the man who does more than spectacularly meet the criteria for this series, namely stunning the world. That is something he accomplished in the most rarefied 9.69sec in Games history. He also reflects what the Olympics should represent - higher, faster, stronger - in its purest and most exalted form. The sight of him reducing his competitors to victim status in Beijing by sprinting flat-out for just 34 strides before spreading his arms wide in premature celebration is burned on to every retina. Despite the cavorting, he still shaved three-hundredths of a second off his world record. His physique is long and not all sculptured muscle like Johnson's, and his rise through the ranks was consistently outstanding rather than average prior to a telltale spike. We can only pray that the Olympics' most stunning athlete is what he seems.
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Seoul 1988: Ben JohnsonBen Johnson showed us the stars, and then the abyss. All compact muscle, the Canadian destroyed the great Carl Lewis with a run of 9.79sec, and that achieved with his right index finger pointing into the air over the last couple of strides. It was four hundredths better than his old record. Then, in the early hours of a Seoul morning, news broke that Johnson had been busted for drugs. The yellow eyes Lewis had spotted as they lined up were a sign of steroid use. For many the Olympics lost its magic at that moment. But the show went on.
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Moscow 1980: Coe v Ovett Part 1The ultimate rivalry, between two Britons who were the greatest middle-distance runners of their age. Steve Ovett versus Seb Coe split the nation. Coe was expected to win the 800m but he got his tactics hopelessly muddled. He was boxed in, left it too late to make his move and when he finally tried to push round the outside it was futile. His father and coach Peter called him what might politely be called an idiot for miscalculating. Ovett, who elbowed himself to the gold medal, finished three yards in front. Coe's silver was worthless to him. Six days later they met again in the 1500m…
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Moscow 1980: Coe v Ovett Part 2Sportsmail picture editor Brendan Monks, one of the judging panel for this series, ranks this image of Coe's contorted face as the most evocative Olympic picture of them all. Six days of abject pain after missing out on the medal the world expected him to win, this was Coe's supreme moment - gold in the 1500m with one of the great Olympic runs. 'It was nice to climb that mountain,' said Coe calmly after his lap of honour. 'I felt much more relaxed than just before the 800, possibly because that was the one I was expected to win. I just felt a different person today.' Ovett took bronze.
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