There's something invigorating about watching an underdog rise, especially at the Olympic Games. Finding a way to beat the odds among the greatest athletes on the planet with all the nations' leaders watching is enough to get any audience giddy. "Upsets resonate in the Olympics because the games provide global stages for nations to play out socio-political struggles," says Mark Dyreson, Penn State kinesiology professor and Olympics expert. The biggest shockers at the Olympics frequently include two geopolitical rivals battling to the finish, but just as often they entail an individual rising up to earn a medal. In other cases, a bit of luck is on their side. Here are 10 of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
Great Britain over U.S., 4x100 Relay, Athens 2004
The Americans consider Olympic relay races their bread and butter, but in Athens, a supremely talented lineup that included Justin Gatlin was knocked off their perch by an unheralded quartet of British sprinters. Bad baton transfers doomed the U.S., and Mark Lewis-Francis held off a charging Maurice Greene to give the U.K. the gold by a miniscule 0.01 second.
Credit: Michael Steele / Getty Images