Olympic Stories

Matthew Syed, a former international table tennis player who represented Great Britain in two Olympic Games, wrote a list for the TimesOnline (7/15/08) of the Top 50 Greatest Olympic Games Moments.  These are some of his choices (in no particular order):

1. In London (1908), Wyndham Halswell from Scotland won the 400 meters as the sole runner.  In the initial “final” race two days earlier, officials declared the race void and ordered a re-run when it was deemed that two Americans had conspired to block him from passing.   In the rescheduled race, all the other competitors refused to run against him, allowing him to take the gold.

2. In St. Louis (1904) US gymnast George Eyser won two golds, a silver and a bronze.  What’s the big deal?  He had a wooden leg.

3. In Munich (1972), the U.S. basketball team, going into the final with Russia, had been unbeaten in 63 Olympic matches.  With three seconds remaining, Russia led 49-48, when a foul was awarded to the U.S.  They nailed the first two shots, but a horn blew during the second shot.  The third shot failed, and the Americans started to celebrate their 50-49 win.  But an official said he had whistled for play to stop after hearing the earlier horn, and the Russians said that they had requested a timeout before the shots were attempted.  The referee ordered the clock to be reset to 3 seconds to replay the inbound.  Russia failed to score.  Then the officials said that the clock was still in the process of being reset when the referee put the ball in play!  The Secretary General of the International Basketball Federation, stepped in and ordered the clock to be reset to 3 seconds and the inbound replayed.  The Russians scored and were crowned champions.  The Americans refused, unsurprisingly, to turn up at the medal ceremony.  The silver medals still sit, unclaimed, in a vault at the International Olympic Committee headquarters, and some members of the American team have written in their wills that no member of their families may claim the medals after their death.

4. At the Games in Rome (1960), Ethiopian Abebe Bikila became the first runner representing an African nation to win gold in the marathon at the Olympics.  He did it barefoot, and set a world record in the process.

For more Top Olympic moments, go to: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article4316031.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1