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Brazilian marathoner assaulted at Olympics

Brazilian marathoner assaulted at Olympics

On August 29, 2004, Brazilian distance runner Vanderlei de Lima is attacked by a spectator while running the marathon, the final event of the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. At the time of the incident, De Lima had a 30-second lead in the race with four miles to go.

De Lima, whom few had picked to be a contender, surprised the crowd by taking the lead at the 13-mile mark. After extending his lead for the next nine miles, he was suddenly approached from his left side by a bystander from Ireland named Cornelius Horan. Wearing an orange kilt, green knee socks and a green beret, Horan shoved de Lima out of the middle of the course and into the crowd, stopping the runner’s progress. A subsequent investigation revealed that the mentally unbalanced Horan, a defrocked Irish priest, was simply looking for publicity. (Horan had spent two months in prison in 2003 for standing in the middle of the race track at the British Grand Prix for a full 20 seconds as race cars swerved to avoid hitting him.) As Horan was subdued by security guards, De Lima resumed running, still in the lead. However, with just over two miles remaining in the race, he was overtaken by Stefano Baldini of Italy, who took home the gold. Meb Keflezighi of the United States also passed de Lima to win the silver medal; De Lima finished in third.

A shaken de Lima told the assembled press after the race, ”I was not expecting it at all. I couldn’t defend myself. I was totally concentrated on my race. I had to get back into my competitive rhythm, and I really lost a lot of it. It’s extremely difficult to find that rhythm again.”

De Lima was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship at the closing ceremonies by the International Olympic Committee.

READ MORE: When World Events Disrupted the Olympics

A History Of Sexual Assault At The Olympics — And What's Being Done To Combat It

The 2018 Winter Olympics begin in PyeongChang on Feb. 8, and the pressure is not only on athletes who are competing, but also Olympic officials — specifically, on how they will protect athletes and prevent sexual assault from occurring at the games. The history of sexual assault and misconduct happening around and at the Olympics is nothing new, but as awareness continues to rise about rape culture, especially in athletics, more attention is being paid to these types of crimes, and more resources are being made available by the International Olympic Committee and PyeongChang to combat it.

Over the last couple weeks, many of us have followed the sentencing of Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University and Olympic doctor who was found guilty of sexually abusing hundreds of athletes in his medical care. Nassar was sentenced to serve 40 to 175 years in prison for his crimes, following weeks of testimony from 156 women claiming he abused them as children. The Washington Post reported that Nassar’s abuse was just a small fraction of the sexual violence and misbehavior that has allegedly occurred within Olympic organizations: Since 1982, over 290 coaches and officials who’ve worked in U.S. Olympic sports organizations have been accused of sexual misconduct — and again, that is people associated with the U.S. Olympic team, and doesn't include American athletes, or coaches or officials from other countries.

Olympic athletes, too, have been accused of sexual assault during the games and otherwise. During the 2016 summer Olympics, which were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, two separate incidents of alleged sexual assault by Olympic athletes occurred. Jonas Junias Jonas, an Olympic boxer from Namibia who carried the flag for Namibia during the opening ceremonies, was the first to be arrested for allegedly grabbing, kissing, and attempting to solicit a housekeeper at the hotel he was staying at, according to reporting from CNN. The Washington Post reported that Jonas still competed in a scheduled fight following his release from jail. (According to an article in the Namibian newspaper New Era, Junias Jonas maintains there was "no contact" between him and his accuser.) Shortly thereafter, Moroccan boxer Hassan Saada was jailed for attempted rape after allegedly attacking two women who worked as waiters in the Olympic Village, NBC reported, and was forced to surrender his passport. He was incarcerated and placed under house arrest in Brazil, and was able to return to Morocco after 10 months pending trial, Morocco World News reported. Protests against rape culture led by local activists were held in Rio after the two arrests, according to USA Today.

However, the history of sexual assault during the Olympics is not limited to the most recent summer games. Two Paralympic powerlifters from Jordan — Omar Sami Qaradhi and Motaz Al Junaidi — were dropped from the 2012 London games for separate alleged incidents of sexual assault, indecent exposure, and voyeurism. Their trainer, Faisal Hammash, was also sent home in connection with the alleged crime, which CBS News reports allegedly took place while they were training near Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Acccording to the Belfast Telegraph, Qaradhi pled guilty to the charges in 2014 and apologized "for the indignity, hurt and distress" his survivors experienced. The charges against Hammash and Al Junaidi were dropped.)

It's also important to note the well-documented effect that large sporting events, such as the Olympics, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl, have on human trafficking in the cities where these events are hosted: according to Reuters, a campaign against human trafficking tied to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil claimed that "sexual exploitation" increased 30 percent during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and 40 percent during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

So, what will be done to combat sexual assault and misconduct at the upcoming Olympics? Mic reported on Jan. 24 that Olympic Villages in PyeongChang will have sexual assault centers for the first time ever. The centers will offer physical health care, mental health counseling, legal advice, and safe avenues to report sexual assault to law enforcement the resources will be available to not only athletes, but to anyone in the areas who need to access them. “We heard from the International Olympic Committee that 1.2 million people — athletes, press, and operation personnel — will be coming to the Pyeongchang Olympics,” Kwon Eun-jin, who is head of women's welfare at the Gangwon-do Provincial Office, told Mic. "So, we thought a clinic to address sexual violence, sexual harassment and prostitution was necessary.” She also added that the province will pay for the centers. On top of the resource these centers will provide for the Olympic Village, the International Olympic Committee will give out awareness-raising material about how to prevent harassment and abuse to all athletes and associated staff in the Olympic Village, the IOC told Bustle via email, as well as providing a 45-minute online course on the subject.

Immediate resources like the sexual assault centers are a huge step in the right direction, but there also needs to be change on a legislative and cultural level. On Jan. 30, in light of the attention garnered by Nassar's sentencing, the U.S. Senate cleared a bipartisan bill aimed to protect athletes from sexual abuse, and ensure sexual abuse allegations are reported more frequently to law enforcement. The bill now heads to the President's desk to be signed.

The Olympics should be a time where people from all around the world can come together to appreciate the accomplishments of these elite athletes, and to cheer on our favorites. Unfortunately, sexual assault and abuse continues to be an issue at the Olympics, as with other sporting events. The changes the IOC has implemented are an important step toward eradicating sexual abuse, but until our culture changes on a wholesale level (a process we are seeing the beginnings of with #MeToo), it's hard to say how much these processes can proactively prevent sexual assault — the ultimate and uncertain goal.

The 1904 Olympic Marathon May Have Been the Strangest Ever

Fred Lorz, Olympic marathoner and practical joker, 1904.
Photo: www.morethanthegames.co.uk

America’s first Olympics may have been its worst, or at least its most bizarre. Held in 1904 in St. Louis, the games were tied to that year’s World’s Fair, which celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase while advancing, as did all such turn-of-the-century expositions, the notion of American imperialism. Although there were moments of surprising and genuine triumph (gymnast George Eyser earned six medals, including three gold, despite his wooden leg), the games were largely overshadowed by the fair, which offered its own roster of sporting events, including the controversial Anthropology Days, in which a group of “savages” recruited from the fair’s international villages competed in a variety of athletic feats—among them a greased-pole climb, “ethnic” dancing, and mud slinging—for the amusement of Caucasian spectators. Pierre de Coubertin, a French historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee, took disapproving note of the spectacle and made a prescient observation: “As for that outrageous charade, it will of course lose its appeal when black men, red men and yellow men learn to run, jump and throw, and leave the white men behind them.”

The Olympics’ signal event, the marathon, was conceived to honor the classical heritage of Greece and underscore the connection between the ancient and modern. But from the start the 1904 marathon was less showstopper than sideshow, a freakish spectacle that seemed more in keeping with the carnival atmosphere of the fair than the reverential mood of the games. The outcome was so scandalous that the event was nearly abolished for good.

Javelin contest during the Anthropology Days.
Photo: St. Louis Public Library (www.slpl.org)

A few of the runners were recognized marathoners who had either won or placed in the Boston Marathon or had placed in previous Olympic marathons, but the majority of the field was composed of middle-distance runners and assorted “oddities.” Americans Sam Mellor, A.L. Newton, John Lordon, Michael Spring and Thomas Hicks, all experienced marathoners, were among the favorites. Another American, Fred Lorz, did all his training at night because he had a day job as a bricklayer, and earned his spot in the Olympics by placing in a “special five-mile race” sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union. Among the leading oddities were ten Greeks who had never run a marathon, two men of the Tsuana tribe of South Africa who were in St. Louis as part of the South African World’s Fair exhibit and who arrived at the starting line barefoot, and a Cuban national and former mailman named Félix Carbajal, who raised money to come to the States by demonstrating his running prowess throughout Cuba, once trekking the length of the island. Upon his arrival in New Orleans, he lost all his money on a dice game and had to walk and hitchhike to St. Louis. At five feet tall, he presented a slight but striking figure at the starting line, attired in a white, long-sleeved shirt, long, dark pants, a beret and a pair of street shoes. One fellow Olympian took pity, found a pair of scissors and cut Carbajal’s trousers at the knee.

Cuban marathoner (and former mailman) Félix Carbajal
Photo: Britannica.com

On August 30, at precisely 3:03 p.m., David R. Francis, president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, fired the starting pistol, and the men were off. Heat and humidity soared into the 90s, and the 24.85-mile course—which one fair official called “the most difficult a human being was ever asked to run over”—wound across roads inches deep in dust. There were seven hills, varying from 100-to-300 feet high, some with brutally long ascents. In many places cracked stone was strewn across the roadway, creating perilous footing, and the men had to constantly dodge cross-town traffic, delivery wagons, railroad trains, trolley cars and people walking their dogs. There were only two places where athletes could secure fresh water, from a water tower at six miles and a roadside well at 12 miles. James Sullivan, the chief organizer of the games, wanted to minimize fluid intake to test the limits and effects of purposeful dehydration, a common area of research at the time. Cars carrying coaches and physicians motored alongside the runners, kicking the dust up and launching coughing spells.

Fred Lorz led the 32 starters from the gun, but by the first mile Thomas Hicks edged ahead. William Garcia of California nearly became the first fatality of an Olympic marathon we he collapsed on the side of the road and was hospitalized with hemorrhaging the dust had coated his esophagus and ripped his stomach lining. Had he gone unaided an hour longer he might have bled to death. John Lordon suffered a bout of vomiting and gave up. Len Tau, one of the South African participants, was chased a mile off course by wild dogs. Félix Carvajal trotted along in his cumbersome shoes and billowing shirt, making good time even though he paused to chat with spectators in broken English. On one occasion he stopped at a car, saw that its occupants were eating peaches, and asked for one. Being refused, he playfully snatched two and ate them as he ran. A bit further along the course, he stopped at an orchard and snacked on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. Suffering from stomach cramps, he lay down and took a nap. Sam Mellor, now in the lead, also experienced severe cramping. He slowed to a walk and eventually stopped. At the nine-mile mark cramps also plagued Lorz, who decided to hitch a ride in one of the accompanying automobiles, waving at spectators and fellow runners as he passed.

Hicks, one of the early American favorites, came under the care of a two-man support crew at the 10-mile mark. He begged them for a drink but they refused, instead sponging out his mouth with warm distilled water. Seven miles from the finish, his handlers fed him a concoction of strychnine and egg whites—the first recorded instance of drug use in the modern Olympics. Strychnine, in small doses, was commonly used a stimulant, and at the time there were no rules about performance-enhancing drugs. Hicks’ team also carried a flask of French brandy but decided to withhold it until they could gauge the runner’s condition.

Meanwhile, Lorz, recovered from his cramps, emerged from his 11-mile ride in the automobile. One of Hicks’ handlers saw him and ordered him off the course, but Lorz kept running and finished with a time of just under three hours. The crowd roared and began chanting, “An American won!” Alice Roosevelt, the 20-year-old daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, placed a wreath upon Lorz’s head and was just about to lower the gold medal around his neck when, one witness reported, “someone called an indignant halt to the proceedings with the charge that Lorz was an impostor.” The cheers turned to boos. Lorz smiled and claimed that he had never intended to accept the honor he finished only for the sake of a “joke.”

Thomas Hicks, assisted by his trainers.

Hicks, the strychnine coursing through his blood, had grown ashen and limp. When he heard that Lorz had been disqualified he perked up and forced his legs into a trot. His trainers gave him another dose of strychnine and egg whites, this time with some brandy to wash it down. They fetched warm water and soaked his body and head. After the bathing he appeared to revive and quickened his pace. “Over the last two miles of the road,” wrote race official Charles Lucas, “Hicks was running mechanically, like a well-oiled piece of machinery. His eyes were dull, lusterless the ashen color of his face and skin had deepened his arms appeared as weights well tied down he could scarcely lift his legs, while his knees were almost stiff.”

He began hallucinating, believing that the finish line was still 20 miles away. In the last mile he begged for something to eat. Then he begged to lie down. He was given more brandy but refused tea. He swallowed two more egg whites. He walked up the first of the last two hills, and then jogged down on the incline. Swinging into the stadium, he tried to run but was reduced to a graceless shuffle. His trainers carried him over the line, holding him aloft while his feet moved back and forth, and he was declared the winner.

It took four doctors and one hour for Hicks to feel well enough just to leave the grounds. He had lost eight pounds during the course of the race, and declared, “Never in my life have I run such a touch course. The terrific hills simply tear a man to pieces.” Hicks and Lorz would meet again at the Boston Marathon the following year, which Lorz won without the aid of anything but his legs.

Books: Susan Brownell, The 1904 Anthropology Days and Olympic Games. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008 David E. Martin, The Olympic Marathon. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000. George R. Matthews, America’s First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005 Pamela Cooper, The American Marathon. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998 Daniel M. Rosen, Dope: A history of Performance Enhancement in Sports From the Nineteenth Century to Today. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2008 Charles J. P. Lucas, The Olympic Games, 1904. St. Louis, Mo: Woodward & Tieran Printing Co., 1905.

Articles: “The Olympics of 1904: Comedic, Disgraceful, and ‘Best Forgotten.” Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2004 “Marathon Captivated Crowd at 1904 Olympics.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003 “New York Athlete Wins Marathon Race.” New York Times, April 20, 1905 � Set Record for the Unusual.” Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1984 “The 1904 Marathon Was Pure Torture.” Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 3, 2008 “Marathon Madness,” New Scientist 183 (August 7-13, 2004) “St. Louis Games Were Extremely Primitive By Today’s Standards.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2004 “One Man’s Poison In a Brazen and Forgotten Incident of Doping.” Boston Globe, February 22, 2009.

Meet the marathoner who lit the cauldron at the Rio Games

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL -- Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei De Lima has lit the cauldron at the Rio Games.

De Lima was one of the suspected candidates after Pele revealed earlier Friday that health problems would keep him from attending the opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima holds up the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. AP/Michael Sohn

So 12 years later than he likely would have, De Lima got his golden moment.

De Lima was leading the 2004 race at the Athens Games when a protester attacked and disrupted his run. De Lima wound up finishing third, but has been lauded for how he's handled the incident.

Gustavo Kuerten carried the torch into the stadium, then handed it to Brazilian basketball legend Hortencia Marcari. She brought it to the stage, then De Lima brought it up the stairs and held it aloft for 60,000 to cheer.

With that, the cauldron -- one unlike any other in Olympic history -- was lighted.

2016 Rio Olympics

Brazilian officials wanted this cauldron smaller than most, a reminder to reduce global warming caused by fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. The flame is housed in a giant sculpture, with spirals to represent the sun.

First published on August 5, 2016 / 11:16 PM

© 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Vanderlei de Lima is assaulted by kilt-wearing spectator while running marathon during the 2004 Summer Olympics

ATHENS - Vanderlei de Lima had been running in Greek heat for well over two hours and, by the way, was mugged along the way by a lunatic in a red kilt and high green socks.

He was leading the Olympic marathon yesterday when he was blindsided, pushed from the middle of the street into the crowd and onto the sidewalk at about the 20-mile mark, for no rational reason on Earth. He lost precious seconds, a chunk of his 100-yard lead, all of his rhythm in the 26.2-mile race. Phidippedes never faced such nonsense running the same course in 490 B.C.

De Lima might have been robbed of a gold medal by this perverse prankster, and yet here was the Brazilian marathoner, finishing the race with a wide smile, and he was performing samba soccer moves down the straightaway of classic Panathinaiko Stadium.

"A festive moment," Vanderlei would call it later. "One has to celebrate it."

His arms were straight out like an airplane, he was swaying to an internal drum beat, like he'd just scored the winning goal against Argentina in the World Cup. And right there, on the last lap of the last event of the Summer Games, the resilience of these Olympics and of all Olympians was personified by a skinny Brazilian swerving and persevering his way to a bronze medal.

"It was obviously a surprise, I have to say," de Lima said of the attack. "I couldn't defend myself. He hurled his whole body at me in the middle of the street. There was nothing I could do, and it bothered me quite a bit. I lost a lot. You lag behind the next three or four kilometers. It's very difficult to get your rhythm back.

"But it's important I made it. The Olympic spirit prevailed."

That it did, though this was everybody's nightmare last night. Organizers, athletes, police forces can never secure an entire marathon course, unless it is competed on a closed circuit, a boring series of small loops. Nobody wants that.

"This was an isolated incident, something that can happen anywhere," de Lima said generously. "I'm not going to accuse anybody."

This might have happened in New York, or London, or Chicago, or Tokyo. All those places have major marathons, and the fans line up along both sides of the route. You just hope there isn't another one out there like this guy, identified by Greek police as a defrocked Irish priest named Cornelius Horan.

Horan already had disrupted a British Formula One race last year. The suspect yesterday had writing all over himself, silly stuff: "The Grand Prix Priest. Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says The Bible. The Second Coming Is Near."

Police say he'd been drinking, though it's hard to imagine what drink makes a man quite this mad. The attacker was pulled off de Lima by a Good Samaritan and was arrested on the spot. If found guilty, he should be forced to run some marathons on the grounds of a mental institute.

De Lima scrambled back onto the street, into the race. Frankly, he was losing his lead even before the incident, which occurred 1 hour, 53 minutes into the race. After that, though, it disappeared quicker. The eventual winner, Stefano Baldini of Italy, passed him by the 2-hour mark. Mebrahtom Keflezighi, the surprise American silver medalist, passed de Lima a few minutes later, before they all came into the stadium.

Neither Baldini, who won the race in 2 hours, 10 minutes and 55 seconds, nor Keflezighi, who came to America in 1987 by way of Eritrea and Italy, had seen the assault during the race. They'd only seen the aftermath, the fuss, the guy in the kilt being dragged off.

Two hours later, Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, hung a bronze medal around de Lima's neck at Olympic Stadium, patting the Brazilian on the shoulder in sympathy. So now there is this question for Rogge, again. Should there be two golds?

Marathon leader tackled by fan

At the 2004 Athens Summer Games, Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei de Lima seemed on the verge of fulfilling a lifelong dream, by winning the gold medal and bringing glory to his country. But it wasn't to be — Leading the marathon with just four miles to go, de Lima was suddenly attacked by a crazed, kilt-wearing spectator named Cornelius "Neil" Horan, a defrocked priest with a history of drunkenness and mental illness. De Lima managed to fend off Horan and eventually finished the race, but not until he had been passed twice by other racers. He was forced to settle for the bronze medal, but on the bright side, chagrined Olympic organizers later gave him a special award for exemplifying the Olympic spirit.


The Rio 2016 Games provided the best possible environment for peak performances. Athletes enjoyed world-class facilities, including a superb village, all located in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, in a compact layout for maximum convenience.

Compact Layout

The competition venues were clustered in four zones—Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro and Maracanã—and connected by a high-performance transport ring. Nearly half of the athletes could reach their venues in less than 10 minutes, and almost 75 per cent could do so in less than 25 minutes.

Venue Facts

Of the 34 competition venues, eight underwent some permanent works, seven were totally temporary and nine were constructed as permanent legacy venues.

Spotlight on Rio

The Rio Games also celebrated and showcased sport, thanks to the city’s stunning setting and a desire to lift event presentation to new heights. At the same time, Rio 2016 was an opportunity to deliver the broader aspirations for the long-term future of the city, region and country—an opportunity to hasten the transformation of Rio de Janeiro into an even greater global city.

15. 1924 Summer Olympics

The 1924 Summer Olympics was held in Paris, France, this being the second time after 1900 that Paris hosted the Olympic Games. As post-World War I tensions continued to prevail, the IOC refused to send an invitation to Germany to participate in the 1924 Games. Thus, athletes from Germany did not compete in the 1924 Olympics. Many countries like Ireland, Ecuador, Uruguay, Lithuania, and China attended the Games for the first time. Latvia and Poland, who had attended the 1924 Winter Olympics, attended the Summer Olympics for the first time. In total, 44 countries were present at the 1924 Olympic Games.

This event was the first Olympic Games to introduce an Olympic Village to house the Olympic contestants, officials, and other attendees. During this Olympic Games, the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius was first used. For the first time, Ireland participated in the Olympics as an independent nation. Nearly 60,000 spectators attended the Games at a time. However, despite such high figures, the return on investment was quite low and thus the local economy suffered great losses.

'Irresponsible' Olympian arrested after allegedly breaking coronavirus quarantine

See also

The 2016 Olympics kick off in Rio

Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei De Lima has lit the cauldron at the Rio Games.

De Lima was one of the suspected candidates after Pele revealed earlier Friday that health problems would keep him from attending the opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium.

So 12 years later than he likely would have, De Lima got his golden moment.

De Lima was leading the 2004 race at the Athens Games when a protester attacked and disrupted his run. De Lima wound up finishing third, but has been lauded for how he’s handled the incident.

Gustavo Kuerten carried the torch into the stadium, then handed it to Brazilian basketball legend Hortencia Marcari. She brought it to the stage, then De Lima brought it up the stairs and held it aloft for 60,000 to cheer.

With that, the cauldron — one unlike any other in Olympic history — was lighted.

Brazilian officials wanted this cauldron smaller than most, a reminder to reduce global warming caused by fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. The flame is housed in a giant sculpture, with spirals to represent the sun.

It’s all uphill from here

Things never got as farcical as that, but the next winner, Italian Dorando Pietri at the 1908 London Olympics, also had to be helped across the line having lost the strength of his legs, and his mind, from exhaustion and dehydration. Pietri made it all the way to the Olympic Stadium in White City—three minutes ahead of the next runner—but took a wrong turn and had to be herded by officials back on track.

“After the doctors had poured stimulants down his throat he was dragged to his feet, and finally was pushed across the line with one man at his back and another holding him by the arm,” according to the New Yorker (paywall).

The random nature of the Olympic marathon also made a permanent mark on the sport that year. Until that time, the length was unfixed—the first marathon was only set up to recreate the Marathon-to-Athens route—and largely adapted to the terrain. The Brits devised a course running from Windsor to White City, approximately 26 miles.

To accommodate the queen, this was adjusted to start the race from Windsor Castle, and an extra 385 yards added to bring it to a finish exactly in front of the Royal Box. This arbitrary length was subsequently adopted as the marathon’s official 26.2-mile distance (paywall) and led to the tradition, still practiced by some today, of marathon runners shouting “God save the queen” as they reach the last mile.

As marathons became more established and popular, so the farces came to an end, but there have still been surprising occurrences. In 1960, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia ran barefoot because the shoes he was given were too tight, yet became the first black African to win Olympic gold. He successfully defended his marathon title four years later in Tokyo, despite suffering appendicitis six weeks before the race.

This year’s Games has seen Swedish triplet sisters and German twins run the women’s event in Rio.

But perhaps the best story is of Shizo Kanakuri, one of the first Asians invited to take part in an Olympics—this one in Stockholm in 1912.

But the Japanese endured a horrid 18-day journey by ship and the Trans-Siberian railway to get to Sweden. He arrived to a 32°C heatwave, causing most of the runners to suffer from hyperthermia. Kanakuri, running in traditional Japanese tabi (two-toed canvas shoes), was already struggling with the local food and lost consciousness midway through the race.

Taken in by a local family, he fell asleep on their couch and woke up later in the night. Embarrassed, he neglected to tell race officials and simply returned to Japan. Though he competed in subsequent Olympics, Swedish authorities had him listed as missing for over 50 years.

Kanakuri did eventually finish his race—invited back to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 1912 Games, he crossed the finish line to record the longest-ever official marathon time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

“It was a long trip,” he told reporters. “Along the way, I got married, had six children, and 10 grandchildren.”

Bad Winner Division, Silver

McKayla Maroney says she was disappointed in her performance in the vault in 2012, but her face seemed to say she was unimpressed with the silver. Thomas Coex/Getty Images

McKayla Maroney, London 2012: The American gymnast was favored to win the vault, but a mistake earned her a silver medal instead. On the medal stand, she made a face -- looking as if she were sour about having to settle for silver -- that upset many and went viral as a meme. Later, she said her expression was of disappointment in her performance and not disrespectful of the medal. She took ownership and later posed with President Barack Obama in the White House as they both made the "not impressed" face.

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Watch the video: Vanderlei de Lima Shows Incredible Perserverance - Athens 2004 Mens Marathon (January 2022).