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Top 10 Greatest Girl Power Moments from Past Olympics

Of course the Olympics are inspiring -- but the history-making, odds-defying, pain-ignoring, shut-the-front-door-did-you-see-that moments are what we remember long after the closing ceremonies. Every woman in the Games is fierce, but here are a few of our favorite memories of the U.S. ladies from the past 20 years of the world's biggest sports stage.

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When Kerri Strug...

The Moment: When Kerri Strug gritted her teeth and vaulted on an injured ankle, as a last attempt to help the U.S. secure its first-ever Team Gold in Women's Gymnastics at a non-boycotted Games (Atlanta 1996).

BTW: Because of her injury, Strug couldn't compete in Floor Exercise in the Individual Event Finals, so her teammate Dominique Dawes was selected. She won the bronze and made history as the first African-American gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal.

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When the U.S. Women's Hockey Team...

The Moment: When the U.S. Women's Hockey Team won gold, the country's first Olympic gold in hockey since 1980's "Miracle on Ice" (Nagano 1998).

BTW: 1998 marked the first year Women's Hockey was included in the Olympics; meanwhile, the U.S. men were in the news for trashing a dorm after failing to medal.

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When tennis player Jennifer Capriati...

The Moment: When tennis player Jennifer Capriati, just 16 years old, won the gold medal in Women's Singles in an upset against well-known Steffi Graf (Barcelona 1992).

BTW: Where you rank in the world as a tennis player depends on how many points each tournament win is worth. Interestingly, winning the Women's Singles championship at Wimbledon three weeks before London will net you 2,000 points, but securing a gold medal at the 2012 Games only gets you 685 points.

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When a poised 16-year-old Sarah Hughes...

The Moment: When a poised 16-year-old Sarah Hughes, who was considered a bit of a long shot, stole the Figure Skating spotlight and won gold after landing seven triple jumps (Salt Lake City 2002).

BTW: Four years before Hughes, 15-year-old World Champion Tara Lipinski also nailed seven triple jumps for the Olympic gold. In both instances, the youngsters edged out fan favorite Michelle Kwan, who is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history.

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When Natalie Coughlin...

The Moment: When Natalie Coughlin repeated her gold-medal win in the 100-meter backstroke and was reportedly in so much pain during the swim that she bit (and cut) her lip to distract herself from the discomfort (Beijing 2008).

BTW: If Coughlin wins just one more medal in London, her third Olympic Games, she'll tie Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson for the most medals won by an American female Olympian.

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When Bonnie Blair...

The Moment: When Bonnie Blair skated her fastest 1,000 meters in six years and left her competition in the (ice)dust, making her the first U.S. female athlete to win five gold Olympic medals (1994).

BTW: Blair's good friend Dan Jansen, a male U.S. speed skater, also won gold in the 1,000 meters in '94...his sole medal in four Games and after years of personal tragedies.

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When the U.S. Softball Team...

The Moment: When the U.S. Softball Team lost three games in a row -- their first losses after a 112 game winning streak -- and then made a killer comeback to beat the same three teams and secure the gold (Sydney 2000).

BTW: The sport was voted out of the Olympics in 2005, with the 2008 Beijing Olympics being the last to include the competition. Some experts reportedly say MLB would need to step in for Softball to return to the Games.

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When Carly Patterson...

The Moment: When Carly Patterson nailed her floor exercise to clinch the All-Around gold medal in Women's Gymnastics, making her the first American to do so since Mary Lou Retton in 1984 (Athens 2004).

BTW: Nastia Liukin, Carly's teammate from their gym in Texas, followed suit and won the All-Around gold four years later, in Beijing.

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When Lindsey Vonn...

The Moment: Unseasonably warm weather pushed the skiing dates back, allowing fan favorite Lindsey Vonn just enough time to recover from shin injuries -- and win Olympic gold in downhill skiing (Vancouver 2010).

BTW: With her win, Lindsey edged out U.S. teammate and silver medalist Julia Mancuso for a spot in the history books, as it was the first time an American woman won gold in downhill skiing.

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When the U.S. Women...

The Moment: When the U.S. Women, including superstar Mia Hamm, won the gold medal in the first Olympics to include Women's Soccer (Atlanta 1996).

BTW: If you missed this notable girl power moment in sports history, it may have been because NBC aired only four thin segments of the gold medal game, for a total of just 20 minutes. But with London 2012 on social media steroids, we're excited to know it will be almost impossible to miss out on the best moments from the Games!

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, June 2012.

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