Olympics Sports Oddities and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia about the sporting event the Olympics.



Desire and dedication were Felix Carvajal's middle names when he decided to compete in the marathon for Cuba in the 1904 Olympic Games to be held in St. Louis, Mo. A postman from Havana, he managed to pay for his fare to the U.S. by begging money in Havana's public square. Unfortunately, when Carvajal arrived in New Orleans, he was fleeced by gamblers and ended up broke, still 700 mi. away from his destination. Since he couldn't afford to ride to St. Louis, he made up his mind to run there. Begging food along the way, Felix actually made it all the way to St. Louis--just as the marathon was about to begin. He was going to run in his long pants and long-sleeved shirt and hiking shoes, but another athlete convinced him to cut off his sleeves and pant legs because of the 100 deg. heat. At the start of the race there were 31 runners. By the end of the grueling 26-mi. course, only 14 men were still on their feet, Felix among them. He ran over 700 mi., with very little nourishment, yet somehow still managed to finish the Olympic marathon in fourth place.

In the same marathon race at the 1904 games, another incredible story unfolded. Fred Lorz of the U.S. took an early lead, running easily. But at the halfway point, the heat and pace overcame him and he dropped out of the race. After recuperating, he took a ride in one of the many cars following the runners along the marathon route. The car broke down 5 mi. from Olympic Stadium, so Lorz began to run the rest of the course. His car ride had put him in the lead once more, and he entered the stadium and crossed the finish line in first place--at least that's how it appeared to the spectators and officials. As a joke, Lorz did not tell the officials what had really happened. He was on the verge of being awarded the gold medal when his hoax was revealed. He was later banned from competing in any amateur track event for the rest of his life.

Marathonist Kokichi Tsuburaya, Japan's last hope to win a gold medal in track at the 1964 games in Tokyo, was so disconsolate after his defeat that he committed hara-kiri. In his suicide note, he apologized for having failed his country. Tsuburaya had finished third in the race to win the bronze medal.

In 1920, Ugo Frigerio of Italy handed the conductor of the band a list of selections he wanted played while he competed in the 3,000-meter walk at the games in Antwerp. The conductor complied, and Frigerio won the race.

At the 1948 games in London, the English national anthem was played only three times--at the opening and closing ceremonies and when Princess Elizabeth arrived at the stadium for the first time--which was 477 times fewer than the German anthem had been played in the 1936 games held in Berlin.

Discus thrower Al Oerter of the U.S. is the only athlete to win his event in four consecutive Olympic Games. He won gold medals and set new discus records in the 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968 games. Only nine other athletes have even won their events twice in succession in track and field competition.

Medical research conducted at Olympiads held in the second half of the 20th century has proved conclusively that menstruation is not a hindrance for female competitors, and that women athletes have set world records at all stages of the menstrual cycle.

A medical adviser for Britain's team at the 1972 Munich Olympics recommended that athletes indulge in "about half an hour of sexual activity . . . to maximize the onset, quantity, and quality of sleep" the night before an athletic event. But he warned that athletes following his advice should be accustomed to a pattern of sexual intercouse. Otherwise, he said, "the muscle tension involved might result in severe stiffness and aching the next day."

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