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July 26th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

John Berman: My top three Olympians

My top three Olympic athletes?

Before I start, I have a few confessions to make.

1) I am an Olympic nerd. I hear the music and I get chills. Whenever I see footage of Jim McKay in an oddly colored jacket or a sweater I just want to start chanting U-S-A!!!

2) Even though we are on the eve of the Summer games, I am much more of a Winter guy. I don’t want to rain on the parade (or opening ceremony), but if I am being honest, I have to admit I think the Winter games are more dramatic, interesting and fun. Maybe it is the snow? Maybe it is the Ice Dancing, or maybe…

3) …maybe it is because of the Miracle on Ice in 1980. The U.S. hockey gold in Lake Placid was simply one of the most epic moments of all time. So monumental it needs to be removed from all discussions about top Olympic moments. It’s too obvious, and too big. It’s like asking someone “what is their favorite thing to breathe?”

That said, my three top Olympians:

1) Eric Heiden. The dude won 5 gold medals. Five!!! And his thighs were like 76 inches, I think. The guy single-handedly made me want to become a speed-skater. Sadly I don’t skate well, and am a mess in tight clothing.

2) Bill Johnson. He came from nowhere a month before the Olympics to win his first big race. And then in Sarajevo, he shows up, trash talks the best skiers on the planet and wins. And he skied completely out of control. What’s not to like?

3) Kerri Strug. I loved that she stuck the landing on that bad ankle. However, the indelible memory I have from that was the timing. It was tape delayed!!! She stuck the landing before anyone saw it! This was in 1996. I was already working in news, so I knew that it happened, and couldn’t believe I had to wait hours to see it. It just seems strange. In this day and age, I can’t imagine anyone waiting to broadcast something like that. (oh wait….)

Speed skater Eric Heiden (#1!!)


Figure skater Brian Boitano


Filed under: 2012 London Olympics • John Berman
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Phil

    In regards to the person to light the torch....I would go with 1988 Ski Jumper Eddie " The Eagle " Edwards who caught the attention of the world as the only British jumper that year.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:42 am | Reply
  2. Ahmed Rachdi

    My favorite Olympic athlete is Hicham El Gerrouj of Morocco because of his courage and determination. He was a record-setting world champion long distance runner, but the Olympic gold medal eluded him for a decade. Millions saw him stumble in the 1996 Atlanta games. He kept trying in 2000, losing once more, but he came back in 2004 to finally take the prize he so richly deserved.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:37 am | Reply
  3. Lisa Zay

    Like everyone else I love watching the Olympics – winter/summer doesn't matter – it brings out the proud American in all of us. My favorite memories:

    1 – US Men's Hockey Team – 1980 Lake Placid – so sad we now have professional's playing instead of college students!

    2 – Nadia Comaneci – Montreal 1976 – perfect!

    3 – Dorothy Hamill – yes I had her hair style!

    4 – Sarah Hughes – wow was that 10 years ago?

    July 27, 2012 at 5:33 am | Reply
  4. RUTH

    hello cnn ! asheigh banfield makes a early start , a great start to the morn, no asleigh no early start for me ! yea need funnies in the morn , and oh yea a person with very big smarts

    July 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  5. Paul Williams

    My favorite Olympians
    1) Kerri Strug – hate the tape delay that NBC does on these things, only do it so Costas can show it in Prime Time.

    2) Bruce Jenner – Always remember him running that last race and winning the Decathalon

    3) Greg Luganius – Fearless diver remember him hitting his head on the diving board and still completing the dive.

    4) US Mens Hockey Team – how could you not include them.

    5) Jenny Finch – I would watch her whenever she played, and exceptional player

    July 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Tom Carson

      Favorite Olympian:
      Ray Ewry – An orphan at 5. Contracted Polio at 7. Won ten gold individual medals in four Olympics and he is my Great Grand Father.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:23 am | Reply
  6. Hamlin O'Kelley

    1980 Men's Hockey Team in Lake Placid.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply

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