Saturday, April 16, 2016

Olympics: Losers and Victims


How proud would you be if you were an Olympian, one of the world’s best, representing your country. Something that your friends would hold in awe and your children revere. Whether or not you won a medal would not detract from having been an Olympian. So how sad is it then that, for some Olympic athletes, history remembers some of them as losers and some as victims . . .

Thomas Hamilton-Brown:

Thomas Hamilton-Brown (born 1916) was selected to represent South Africa at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Eliminated in the first round on a split decision, no doubt having gone without to maintain weight for his lightweight division, he went on an eating binge. A few days later it was discovered that he had in fact won his bout, a judge having accidentally reversed his scores. Hamilton-Brown was therefore through to the next round but was disqualified for being 5 pounds over for his weight division.

Georges Touquet-Denis:

Georges Touquet-Denis led the field for half of the marathon at the 1900 Paris Olympics. He then took a wrong turn and ran 400 metres in the wrong direction. Stopping at a cafe to ask for directions and a drink, he found that they only had beer. He had one beer, then another, then dropped out of the race.

Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards:

The subject of a new movie, Eddie Edwards (born 1963) is a skier who represented Great Britain at the 1988 Winter Olympics. 

Eddie was a good downhill skier who narrowly missed the Great Britain team for that event for the 1984 Games. To improve his chances to qualify for Calgary in 1988, he moved to Lake Placid, New York in the U.S. to train and enter races of a higher standard. Short on funds, he switched to ski jumping for reasons of cost and easier qualification as there were no other British ski jumpers with whom to compete for a place. Despite obstacles such as:
· wearing someone else’s boots in which he had to insert 6 pairs of socks to make them fit;
· lack of funds, being entirely self-funded;
· being 9 kilograms heavier than the next heaviest competitor;
· he was farsighted and had to wear heavy spectacles under his goggles, which misted up
he competed in his events, coming last in both the 70m and 90m ski jumps. When he jumped he flapped his arms like a bird to maintain balance and he was quickly dubbed Eddie the Eagle. The worse he performed, the more popular he became. Eddie subsequently became a media celebrity and appeared on talk shows around the world. He was hailed as a symbol of the true Olympic spirit: an amateur athlete who wanted to compete at the best of his ability for its own sake, regardless of his chances of winning. At the closing ceremony, the president of the Organising Committee, Frank King, singled out Edwards for his contribution: "At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records, and some of you have even soared like an eagle.” Nonetheless Olympic officials tightened up selection procedures in what became known as The Eddie the Eagle Rule.

Shizo Kanakuri:

Kanakuri participated in the marathon at the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm. 

Already weakened by a rough 18-day-long trip to Stockholm and by illness from the local food, the race took place during an unseasonal heatwave. Over half of the runners in the event suffered from hyperthermia. Kanakuri lost consciousness midway through the race and was cared for by a farming family. Being embarrassed from his "failure" he silently returned to Japan without notifying race officials. Swedish authorities considered him missing for 50 years before discovering that he was living in Japan and had competed in intervening Olympic marathons. 

In 1966, he was contacted by Swedish Television and offered the opportunity to complete his run. He accepted and completed the marathon in 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.379 seconds, remarking, "It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married, had six children and 10 grandchildren.’ 

He died at the age of 92 in 1983.

Heather Mills:

The ex-wife of Paul McCartney was kicked off the 2008 Great Britain Winter Paralympics team for wearing an illegal (non-compliant) artificial leg.

Wym Essajas:

The first ever athlete from Suriname to participate in the Olympics, Essajas was given the wrong starting time by a race official, being told that the race was on in the afternoon whereas it was actually scheduled for the morning. As the race was being run, Essajas slept through it.

Bruce Kennedy:

Kennedy was a resident of Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, and was selected for the 1972 Munich Olympics as a javelin thrower. However, pressure from the black African nations resulted in Rhodesia not being allowed to compete because of its white minority government. Again selected for Rhodesia’s 1976 Olympic team, the result was the same, Rhodesia was banned from competing. Kennedy moved to the US, married an American and became a US citizen in 1977. Selected to be part of the 1980 US Olympic team, he was once again unable to compete when the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics over Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan. Rhodesia, however, competed. Kennedy did finally make it to the Olympics at Atlanta: as an usher. He had also earned himself a Masters degree at Stanford.

Byung Jong Il:

In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korean boxer Byun Jong Il lost a match after he was penalized for head-butting his competitor. Like a petulant child, Byun sat down in the middle of the ring and refused to get up for over an hour. He stayed put for so long that officials eventually turned off the lights and left him sitting in darkness.

Francisco Lazaro:

Portuguese runner Francisco Lázaro covered his body with wax before the 1912 Stockholm Olympic marathon, to prevent sunburn. The wax restricted his perspiration and he died as a result.

Eddie Hart:

Eddie Hart, the favourite for the 100 meters race at the 1972 Munich Olympics, never showed up for the event because his coach, Stan Wright, used the wrong schedule.

Eric “The Eel” Moussambani:

Moussambani gained entry to the Olympics without meeting the minimum qualification requirements via a wildcard draw designed to encourage participation by developing countries lacking full training facilities. Moussambani took more than twice the winning time to finish his heat (1.52.72), which he won unopposed when the other two swimmers were disqualified for false starts. "The last 15 metres were very difficult", Moussambani said. 

Before coming to the Olympics, Moussambani had never seen a 50 m (160 ft) long Olympic-size swimming pool. He took up swimming eight months before the Olympics and had practised in a lake in Malabo.

Despite lowering his personal best down to under 57 seconds, Moussambani was denied entry into the 2004 Olympic Games due to a visa bungle. He did not take part in the 2008 Summer Olympics. In March 2012 he was appointed coach of the national swimming squad of Equatorial Guinea.

Paula Barila Bolopa:

Eric the Eel was not the only celebrity on the Equatorial Guinea Olympic team. 

Equatoguinea sent two swimmers to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the other being Paula Barila Bolopa. Like Eric she was a wildcard entry.

Originally a footballer, she was submitted to swimming trials to participate at the 2000 Olympic Games and was selected after a month and a half of training. 

Paula competed in the women's 50 meters freestyle event, struggling to finish the race with a time of 1:03.97. In setting a record for the slowest time in Olympic history for that event, she also achieved minor celebrity status. 

She was dubbed Paula the Crawler by the media.

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