Sports have the incredible capacity to bring people together. Connoisseurs and lovers of the sport have different views regarding their favorite sporting moments. There is no objective framework to measure the greatness of a sporting event. Sporting Fans have rated the moments based on the drama that it created, the impact of the moment, and the joy and excitement it brought to the sporting fans.
Sports in the 20th century have witnessed several great sporting moments. Jesse Owens dominating the 1936 Olympics wherein he won the 100 meters, 200 meters, Long jump event, and the 4X 100 meter race is one such event. Fans of Boxing rate the playoff between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at the Madison Square Garden in New York City as the fight of the century. The sight of Michael Jordan scoring for Chicago Bulls in the final seconds of the NBA game 6 was a moment that capped off the legacy of the Bulls.
For me, however, the greatest sporting moment of the 20th century is the Miracle on Ice event, an Ice hockey match between the United States of America and the Mighty Soviets played during the 1980 Winter Olympics In Lake Placid on a sheet of Ice.
The United States of India Hockey team were huge underdogs coming into the match. A bunch of college-going kids who had relatively no experience of playing in the Olympics against the Red Tidal wave of the Soviets who had been World champions during the last four Olympics. The Soviets who had an intimidating presence on the Hockey arena had an enviable record leading up to the Semi-Finals beating all their opponents quite easily. Boris Mikhailov was the captain of the team and had an exceptional set of players at his disposal. With Vladimir Tretiak in the Goalpost, it was considered almost impossible to beat them.
The match was billed as a David vs Goliath event. The political scenario between the two nations was not cordial either. The match started at 5’o clock in the evening in front of a packed house. There was a buzz in the stadium with expectations running high.
Herb Brookes was the Coach of the American team and he had worked hard for building the team during the last 18 months. The first round of the game was the usual business with the Soviets scoring the first goal to take an early lead. The Americans, however, squared off the lead in the first round scoring the equalizer. The Soviets once again took the lead and just as the round was coming to an end, in the final seconds of round America came back with the second equalizer of the game. The crowd was eagerly waiting for the 2nd round to commence. The score Line read at the end of 1st round USA-2, USSR-2.
The Soviet Coach Tikanov then did what was unthinkable. He replaced Tretiak in the Goalpost with Myshkin. In the second round, the American Goalkeeper Jim Craig saved a lot of goals to keep the American team in the hunt. The Soviets, however, were at their usual best during the second-round outplaying and outscoring the Americans. They also managed to extend their lead during the round to one goal. The Score Line read at the end of 2nd Round USA-2, USSR-3.
The third round was the most dramatic of all the rounds. With nine minutes in the third round the Americans squared off the Lead once again, and within a minute the American team captain Eruzione whose name meant Eruption in Italian extended the Lead to 4-3. The Crowd went berserk. Suddenly there was a feeling of expectation amongst the crowd. It started chanting the U.S.A, U.S.A in the stands. Can the American beat the Soviets in a game which they had mastered all over the last 20 years? There were still ten minutes in the game. The United States of America had to hang on to Lead. Ten minutes was a lot of time to hang on to the Lead against the Ferocious Soviets. Till the Last minute of the Game, every Soviet believed that Americans will be beaten. The atmosphere in the stadium kept on building and building till the last second when it reached a crescendo. The commentator who was on air during the closing seconds of the game immortalized the greatness of the moment with his remarks
11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!
It was a moment when a magical coach led a magical group of young players to achieve what was considered impossible at that time.