Friday the 13th is often associated with bad luck. The superstition dates back to the 19th century, but has recently made its way into popular culture through movies such as the popular American horror series of the same name.
Because sport is so unpredictable, there are inevitably moments of misery – and they do. But some of the most memorable gold medals in Olympic history were won when athletes turned the tide and walked away as Olympic champions.
Here are five situations where athletes turned bad luck into sensational wins at the Games.
1 – Steve Bradbury makes the all-time great Olympic thriller
There’s a reason short track speed skating is considered one of the most exciting sports in the Winter Olympics. The hustle and bustle on the ice makes it difficult to stay on your feet as the tightly grouped players jostle for position as they circle the rink.
When Australia Steve Bradbury competed in the 1000m final at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, he had already taken advantage of the misfortune of other athletes to get to the starting line, and their stumbles and penalties played a role in his rush to the gold medal race.
But the best was really ahead of us.
When the final began, Bradbury held last position while keeping a safe distance from the other four skaters who wanted their medals wrapped. But in the last corner of the race, the two leading skaters bumped into each other, causing all four leading runners to fall.
This left Bradbury as the last man standing as he crossed the line for unforgettable gold.
Salt Lake 2002 | Winter Olympics
2 – Greg Louganis’ bad luck on the board ends in a brilliant gold
Greg LouganisThe beginning of the 3m springboard competition in Seoul in 1988 could not have gone worse.
In the preliminary rounds, the diving dynamo’s head hit the board, requiring a total of 25 stitches.
Not wanting that moment of misfortune to stop him from chasing his dreams, however, the American bravely fought on, eventually winning the competition by a record margin of 25 points.
And if that wasn’t enough, he also won gold on the 10-meter platform, becoming the first man in history to complete an individual diving competition.
Greg Louganis | Seoul 1988 | Take the microphone
3 – Redemption of the gold medal of Lindsey Jacobellis after 16 years
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, young Lindsey Jacobellis she was rushing for victory in the snowboard cross final, one second ahead of her closest rivals.
However, in a moment that nearly defined her career for all the wrong reasons, she solemnly tried to catch the finish line in sight and collapsed to the floor after a failed landing. The 19-year-old could only watch helplessly as the Swiss Tanja Frieden he swept past her to claim the gold medal that might as well have been hers.
But 16 years later, at the age of 36, Jacobellis’ moment of redemption came.
In the thrilling final of the 2022 Beijing Snowboard Cross, the American crossed the finish line first and became the oldest snowboarding gold medalist in Olympic history in her fifth Olympic appearance.
“I think five times is a charm,” she said of her historic return from that painful moment of misfortune many years earlier.
Jacobellis’ fall cost her a gold medal in Turin 2006
4 – Kerri Strug shrugs off injury and wins unforgettable gold
When Kerri Struga runner-up for her country’s rhythmic gymnastics team in Atlanta 1996, the US has never won an Olympic gold medal in a team event.
Everything seemed to be about to change as they roared to a 0.897 point lead with only one competition left: the jump.
However, at the age of 14 Dominic Moceanu advanced for Team USA, she collapsed on both of her jumps, leaving all prospects of a US gold medal on Strug’s shoulders.
With her first vault came a catastrophe. As she tried to land, her ankle gave out and she winced in the paralyzing pain.
“Do we need this?” she asked, contemplating the terrifying thought of having to jump again to secure a gold medal for her nation. Unfortunately – or fortunately – for her, it happened.
In what would become one of the most memorable moments in Games history, Strug walked to the mat for one last jump, flying through the air before landing and securing the team gold for her country.
Kerri Strug shrugs off injury and wins gold for USA
5 – Shaunae Miller-Uibo falls off the finish line to become an Olympic champion
In most cases, a fall in the Olympic final means the end of dreams about medals. Not so for Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo whose last trip to the finish line of the women’s 400 m race ended with an Olympic gold medal.
After 40 meters of the Miller-Uibo race, she began to experience intense pain in her legs, and as she stormed towards the line, she felt herself losing her balance and fearing the worst.
“I just thought to myself, ‘please don’t fall,'” said the World Athletics athlete, recalling the race.
“A moment later I fell down. I didn’t know if I had won the race. Everything was blurry. I had a few cuts and bruises on my knees, hips and thighs, but thanks to the adrenaline I didn’t care.”
After what seemed like an eternity to the athlete, the results appeared on the big screen with her name in the first place, and the victorious Miller-Uibo could finally celebrate her Olympic triumph.
“Even today I’m very emotional about it,” the two-time Olympic champion explained. “From the age of nine or ten, I fell in love with athletics and wanted to become an Olympic champion. Achieving this goal that I worked so hard for was like a dream come true.”