All posts by Hilary Evans

When Olympic boxing champions meet for the World Heavyweight Championships

On the 30th of October 1974 George Foreman, the reigning professional heavyweight boxing champion of the world, stepped into a ring in Kinshasa, Zaire to defend his title against former champion Muhammad Ali. What happened next has entered sporting folklore as arguably the most famous fight of all time, the Rumble in the Jungle.

Ali-Foreman

But of course as this is a blog concerning the Olympic Games we’ll choose to dwell on another aspect of the match – that of it being one of the rare instances where two Olympic champions have fought each other for the World Heavyweight title. Boxing became an Olympic sport in 1904 and, with the exception of 1912, has remained in the Games ever since but in that span of 110 years only eleven times have two Olympic champions met for what is regularly described as “the greatest prize in professional sport”.

So when exactly has this happened? The answer is below. The list is restricted to generally accepted versions of the titles. Of the 11 instances documented, 6 involve Muhammad Ali.

#1 22/8/1957 Floyd Patterson KO 6 Pete Rademacher
Floyd Patterson, the champion at middleweight in Helsinki in 1952 at just 17, became the youngest ever heavyweight champion whilst still only 21. As many of the leading contenders for the title were under the control of the International Boxing Club of New York (which had links to organised crime) Patterson’s handlers shied from fighting them and were inventive in choosing opponents.
Pete Rademacher had won the heavyweight gold medal at the Melbourne Games nine months before he faced Patterson for the title and, amazingly, this was to be his professional debut. Rademacher started well, winning the first round then putting Patterson on the canvas in the second but Patterson recovered and battered his way to an emphatic six round victory.

#2 22/11/1965 Muhammad Ali TKO 12 Floyd Patterson
Patterson, having lost his world title via a crushing defeat to Sonny Liston had rebounded well enough to earn a shot at Muhammad Ali, who as Cassius Clay, had won the Olympic light-heavyweight title in 1960. Patterson injured his back in training but refused to pull out of the fight. Accepted history records that Ali “mocked, humiliated and punished Patterson throughout before knocking him out in the 12th round” but an interview with Ali conducted post-fight revealed that Ali, knowing Floyd was in serious pain through his injury, backed off and waited for the fight to be stopped or for Patterson to retire.

#3 8/3/1971 Joe Frazier Pts 15 Muhammad Ali
“The Fight of the Century”, as it was called, pitted Ali, who was back in the ring after being stripped of his belt and suspended after refusing the draft, with the 1964 Olympic heavyweight champion, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier. It was a fight that lived up to the hype as the two men traded blow for blow before a celebrity studded Madison Square Garden crowd. Frazier scored a knockdown in the final round to seal victory.

Ali-Frazier I

#4 22/1/1973 George Foreman TKO 2 Joe Frazier
Kingston, Jamaica saw the “Immovable Object”, reigning heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, go head to head with the “Irresistible Force” in the shape of 1968 Olympic heavyweight champion George Foreman. Unfortunately for him, Frazier proved all too movable and mostly in the downwards direction. The champion was sent to the canvas six times before the referee proclaimed Foreman the winner. In American television this fight was famous for Howard Cosell, announcing it, who kept proclaiming, after each knockdown, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”. This was the 1st time two Olympic heavyweight champions had met for the professional heavyweight title.

#5 30/10/1974 Muhammad Ali KO 8 George Foreman
This is where we came in. In the unlikely setting of a football stadium in downtown Kinshasa, Zaire, one of the famous events not just in boxing but in all sports, took place. Foreman, considered a monster of the ring, was the clear favourite against the older Ali but after dominating the early exchanges he ran out of steam and Ali took advantage to record a stunning knockout victory. 40 years later it remains a landmark in sporting history.

#6 1/10/1975 Muhammad Ali TKO 14 Joe Frazier
Ali and Frazier had fought a rematch in 1974 with Ali gaining revenge via a unanimous points decision. After Ali regained the heavyweight title later that year it became inevitable that a third match between the two would take place. The fight would take place in Manila in October 1975 and is widely considered to be one of the best, and certainly most brutal, bouts in history. In the 14th round, with both men nearing the point of total exhaustion, Ali unleashed a devastating series of punches which led to Frazier retiring in his corner between rounds. Neither man was ever the same again. The two men had been mutually antagonistic throughout their careers but after the fight Ali commented – “Fighting Joe Frazier is the closest to death I can ever imagine. If I’m ever called to a Holy War I want Joe Frazier fighting besides me.”


#7 15/2/1978 Leon Spinks Pts 15 Muhammad Ali
#8 15/9/1978 Muhammad Ali Pts 15 Leon Spinks

Now in the twilight of his career, Ali arranged what seemed like a routine defence against the 1976 Olympic light-heavyweight champion Leon Spinks. In the first meeting Spinks turned up fit and hungry and in only his 8th professional fight used his youth and fitness to finish strongly and win a split decision victory over a subdued and listless Ali. Seven months later and the tide had turned in the favour of the old champion. Spinks, by then in the early stages of drink and drug dependency, was easily outpointed by a better prepared Ali.

Ali-Spinks II

#9 16/3/2002 Wladimir Klitschko TKO 6 Ray Mercer
After a gap of 23 years two Olympic champions stepped into the ring to battle for the heavyweight title once again in 2002. The occasion was a defence of the WBO title by Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, the 1996 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medal winner, against Ray Mercer, winner of the Olympic title at heavyweight back in 1988. The 41 year old Mercer was expected to be little more than a sacrificial victim for the younger man and that’s exactly how it turned out. The referee stepped in to protect Mercer from further punishment in round 6.

#10 5/10/2013 Wladimir Klitschko Pts 12 Aleksandr Povetkin
The bout matched Wladimir Klitschko, who held the IBF and WBO world titles as well as the WBA “Super-World” title with Alexander Povetkin of Russia who merely held the WBA “regular” World Heavyweight title (confusing, but that’s modern professional boxing…). Anyone who’s ever read a comic book will tell you that Superman always beat Regularman and that is exactly what happened in their bout in Moscow. Klitschko won every round and knocked his opponent down four times on his way to a totally one sided victory. He continued to be the best heavyweight in the world for another few years

Klitschko-Povetkin

#11 29/4/2017 Anthony Joshua TKO 11 Wladimir Klitschko
Klitschko, after losing his world titles to Tyson Fury in 2015, returned to the ring to challenge 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Joshua for the IBF and WBA titles.
For the first time in this list the venue, Wembley Stadium, had itself hosted Olympic Games events five years earlier. After a cautious opening Joshua sent the Ukrainian to the canvas in round 5 but, despite being the younger man by more than a decade, he exhausted himself in the process and was knocked down by Klitschko in the following round. The British fighter recovered and in the penultimate round of the scheduled twelve he again went for the knockout. The referee was forced to stop the fight with Klitschko helpless on the ropes after getting up from his second knockdown of the round.

Embed from Getty Images

Did an eight year old compete and win a medal at the Olympics?

When it comes to tracking down missing biographical details for Olympians who competed over a hundred years ago you might expect the trail to be pretty cold by now – and you’d be right. Without divulging too much of our methods, I’ll just say that it can be done if you’re willing to put in the hard yardage cross referencing known information with newspaper reports, censuses, birth records and even ships’ manifests. The best person I know at this is my Estonian colleague Taavi Kalju and it was while researching some French and Belgian Olympians from the early part of the last century that he found a surprising piece of information. The star of this story is about as obscure an Olympian as you could possibly find, a Belgian coxswain who steered the Royal Club Nautique de Gand (Dutch Koninklijke Roeivereniging Club Gent) rowing eight in the Olympic Games of 1900 and 1908 by the name of Alfred Van Landeghem.

Taavi searched the birth registers of Ghent for a possible match and found only one. Now this is where things get interesting because this Alfred Van Landeghem was born on the 26th October 1891 which would make him 8 years and 316 days old when he competed at the Paris Olympic Games of 1900. Not surprisingly that would make him the youngest known Olympian ever and, since his team placed second in the final, the youngest known Olympic medallist ever as well. The 1900 Olympic rowing events were notable for the use of very young coxswain. Some, like the mysterious young French boy picked out of the crowd as a replacement cox for the Dutch pair, have vanished into history without their name or age being recorded for posterity. (There is a name we have seen but we don’t trust it, and won’t even publish it here.) A picture of the late substitute exists which suggests he may be in his early teens or possible as young as 10.

So what of Van Landeghem? Was he really an 8-year-old Olympic medallist? No pictures seem to exist of his Olympic exploits but a postcard was published of the Belgian crew at the 1909 Henley Regatta.

Offical result of the final 1909
Van Landeghem is sitting directly in front of the trophy.

The Van Landeghem born in 1891 would be 17 in 1909 and this appears to tally with the appearance of the man in the picture. Van Landeghem was a cox of Royal Club Nautique de Gand from 1900-1903 winning multiple European titles in coxed pairs, fours and eights.
In the following years Royal Club Nautique de Gand used other coxes (Raphael Van der Waerden & Rodolphe Colpaert), but in 1908 and1909 again Van Landeghem was against used as cox for his club, including at the 1909 Henley Regatta. Ghent crews were very prominent in European rowing circles in early 1900s, winning multiple European titles and the Henley Regatta Grand Challenge Cup in 1906, 1907 and 1909.

Sadly there is a tragic postscript to this story as he died on 19 October 1914, a week shy of his 23rd birthday. It may well be that he was killed in action, as 19 October was the first day of the Battle of Ypres although his name does not appear on the lists of Belgian war dead that we have so far found.

We have been in touch with his club who are helping us with our enquiries but, at the moment, all we can say it that seems likely that we have the right man though we don’t have that final piece of conclusive evidence.
If anyone can help on this matter feel free to contact us via this blog or by contacting http://www.sports-reference.com/feedback/

Golden Slams in Tennis

In some sports an Olympic title can be part of a greater achievement. In this blog we’ve already featured ice hockey’s Triple Gold Club and basketball’s Triple Crown winners but tennis also has its’ ultimate challenge – the Golden Slam.
The Golden slam consists of winning the 4 major championships, the Australian, French and US Opens as well as Wimbledon and an Olympic gold medal. It was never achieved during tennis’s original tenure as an Olympic sport (because of the French tournament being restricted to members of French clubs before 1925) but, since the sport returned to the Olympic fold in 1988, a dozen men and women have performed the feat in a mixture of singles and doubles.

Men’s singles

Athlete Nation(s) Olympics Australia French Wimbledon USA
Andre Agassi USA 1996 4 wins 1 win 1 win 2 wins
Rafael Nadal ESP 2008 1 win 9 wins 2 wins 2 wins

Men’s doubles

Athlete Nation(s) Olympics Australia French Wimbledon USA
Bob Bryan USA 2012 6 wins 2 wins 3 wins 4 wins
Mike Bryan USA 2012 6 wins 2 wins 3 wins 4 wins
Daniel Nestor CAN 2000 1 win 4 wins 2 wins 1 win
Todd Woodbridge AUS 1996 3 wins 1 win 9 wins 3 wins
Mark Woodforde AUS 1996 2 wins 1 win 6 wins 3 wins

Women’s singles

Athlete Nation(s) Olympics Australia French Wimbledon USA
Steffi Graf FRG/GER 1988 4 wins 6 wins 7 wins 5 wins
Serena Williams USA 2012 5 wins 2 wins 5 wins 5 wins

Steffi Graf (right of picture)

Women’s doubles

Athlete Nation(s) Olympics Australia French Wimbledon USA
Gigi Fernandez PUR/USA 1992/1996 2 wins 6 wins 4 wins 5 wins
Pam Shriver USA 1988 7 wins 3 wins 5 wins 5 wins
Serena Williams USA 2000/2008/2012 4 wins 2 wins 5 wins 2 wins
Venus Williams USA 2000/2008/2012 4 wins 2 wins 5 wins 2 wins

Williams sisters

Mixed doubles
Closest approach which includes an Olympic title is that of Vika Azarenko and Max Mirnyi of Belarus with Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open titles and an appearance in the final at the Australian Open.
Daniela Hantuchová has won all 4 major titles but did not compete in the event at the 2012 Olympics.

Serena Williams is unique in achieving this feat as both a singles and doubles player and has a record 34 wins across all five championships and both disciplines. Steffi Graf is the only player to win all 5 tournaments in the same calendar year whilst the Bryan brothers have also held all 5 titles at the same time although, in their case, it was spread over 2012 and 2013. Two of the premiere players of recent years, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, still need an Olympic singles gold to complete their set.

Olympic Footballers – Gold Medalists and World Cup Champions

With the 2014 World Cup now underway it may surprise many of you just how few people have performed the feat of winning both Olympic gold and a World Cup winners medal. It’s only been done 11 times in the men’s game and, since the last time it happened was in 1938, there is now no man alive who has achieved the feat. Despite women’s football having spent less than 20 years as an Olympic event it’s already been 15 times on the female side, mostly by Americans.

The fact that the World Cup only began in 1930 and was dominated by professionals post World War Two gave only a small window for the Olympic/World Cup double to be realistically achieved until the advent of professionals in the late 80s.
That’s why the 11 names on the list all came from the 1930s.
7 come from the Uruguay team of the late 20s and early 30s and the other 4 from the Italian team of the late 30s.
As for Brazilians? There aren’t any. Brazil have been so far thwarted in their attempts on the Olympic championships although with a home Olympics following a home World Cup this may well change.

The women’s tournament, free of the artificial restrictions that plague the men’s event, has already seen more do the double since 1996 than in the 114 year history of men’s Olympic football.

Jose Andrade

Men (11)

Athlete NOC Olympic Gold World Cup
José Andrade URU 1924-28 1930
Héctor Castro URU 1928 1930
Pedro Cea URU 1924-28 1930
Lorenzo Fernández URU 1928 1930
Alvaro Gestido URU 1928 1930
José Nasazzi URU 1924-28 1930
Héctor Scarone URU 1924-28 1930
Sergio Bertoni ITA 1936 1938
Alfredo Foni ITA 1936 1938
Ugo Locatelli ITA 1936 1938
Pietro Rava ITA 1936 1938

Women (15)

Athlete NOC Olympic Gold World Cup
Michelle Akers USA 1996 1991 & 1999
Tisha Venturini USA 1996 1999
Brandi Chastain USA 1996 & 2004 1991 & 1999
Joy Fawcett USA 1996 & 2004 1999
Julie Foudy USA 1996 & 2004 1991 & 1999
Mia Hamm USA 1996 & 2004 1991 & 1999
Kristine Lilly USA 1996 & 2004 1991 & 1999
Shannon MacMillan USA 1996 1999
Tiffeny Milbrett USA 1996 1999
Carla Overbeck USA 1996 1999
Cindy Parlow USA 1996 & 2004 1999
Christie Pearce-Rampone USA 2004 2008 & 2012 1999
Tiffany Roberts USA 1996 & 2004 1999
Briana Scurry USA 1996 & 2004 1999
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf USA 2004 & 2008 1999
Gro Espeseth NOR 2000 1995
Bente Nordby NOR 2000 1995
Marianne Pettersen NOR 2000 1995
Hege Riise NOR 2000 1995

Mia Hamm

Looking to add their names to the list this year will be the following players. Cameroon won Olympic gold in 2000, Argentina in 2004-08, and Mexico in 2012, defeating Brazil in the final match. (Yuichi Nishimura was not refereeing the Mexico-Brazil match in London.)

Cameroon
Samuel Eto’o

Mexico
José de Jesús Corona
Carlos Salcido
Diego Antonio Reyes
Javier Aquino
Giovani dos Santos
Marco Fabián
Héctor Herrera
Raúl Jiménez
Oribe Peralta
Miguel Ángel Ponce

Argentina
Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Lavezzi
Fernando Gago
Javier Mascherano
Lionel Messi
Ángel di María
Pablo Zabaleta
Sergio Agüero
Sergio Romero

This is not an easy thing to do. Both the Olympics and the World Cup only take place every four years and teams cannot even use all the same players in the two tournaments – there are some age limits at the Olympics. Further, not all teams compete in both events. Great Britain competes at the Olympics, while England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have separate teams for the World Cup. If we limit ourselves to the World Cup era (1924-2012), here are the only nations that have even won both an Olympic and a World Cup title – note that Brazil is not on this list. Brazil has won 5 World Cups but never won an Olympic gold medal.

Winning Both World Cup Olympics
Italy 4 1
Argentina 2 2
Uruguay 2 2
France 1 1
Spain 1 1

The Spanish Royal Family and the Olympics

Earlier today King Juan Carlos I of Spain announced his intention to abdicate after 39 years as monarch. What is less known, at least outside Spain, is that Juan Carlos was once an Olympic yachtsman who sailed as part of a crew skippered by the Duke of Arión in the Dragon class at the Munich Games of 1972. Indeed there is a strong connection between Spanish royalty and the Olympic movement both as competitors and administrators that stretches back over a century.

Let’s take a look at the Spanish royals who have been linked to the Olympic Games in one form or another – using the King himself as a starting point

Juan Carlos, Crown Prince de Borbón (later King Juan Carlos I)

Year-Games Sport Event Place
1972-Summer Sailing Dragon class 15

Whilst his Olympic sailing career was not wildly successful it did qualify him for a unique place in history as the only Olympian to officially open the Olympic Games. An achievement which came to pass at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

His wife.
Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark (later Queen Sofía of Spain)
Queen Sofía went to the Rome Olympics of 1960 at the age of just 21 as part of her brother’s crew in the Dragon class. She was an unused reserve at the Games and could not share in their gold medal triumph.

Year-Games Sport Event Place
1960-Summer Sailing Dragon class DNS

His son.
Felipe, Crown Prince de Borbón, The Prince of Asturias (soon to be King Felipe)
The flag bearer for Spain at the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics and the most successful Spanish royal in terms of his results (although there is one more obscure better performance as we’ll find later).
Year-Games Sport Event Place
1992-Summer Sailing Soling class 6

His daughter.
Cristina, Princess de Borbón (later Duchess of Palma de Mallorca)
Her appearance at the 1988 Olympics was brief and rather uninspiring. Appearing only as a substitute in the last race of a 7 race series, her boat failed to finish. She was the Spanish flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
Year-Games Sport Event Place
1988-Summer Sailing Tornado class 20

His son-in-law
Iñaki Urdangarín (later Duke of Palma de Mallorca)
Whilst competing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he helped Spain won a bronze in the sport of handball, he met Princess Cristina. Little over a year later the two were married. In recent years he has been dogged by allegations of corruption involving his business dealings.

Year-Games Sport Event Place
1992-Summer Handball Men 6
1996-Summer Handball Men Bronze
2000-Summer Handball Men Bronze

His brother-in-law
Crown Prince Konstantinos (later King Konstantínos II of Greece)
One of only 2 future kings to be Olympic champions (both in sailing), his reign was ended when Greece became a republic in 1973. He was an IOC member between 1963 and 1974.

Year-Games Sport Event Place
1960-Summer Sailing Dragon class Gold

His sister
Princess Pilar de Borbón, Duchess of Badajoz
Her links to the Olympic movement come as an administrator rather than a competitor.
She served as the President of the International Equestrian Federation from 1994 to 2005 and was a member of the IOC between 1996 and 2006.

Most distantly related, through Queen Sofía, are British royalty. Her cousin, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened the 1956 Olympics whilst his wife, Queen Elizabeth fulfilled the same role in 1976 and 2012. Their daughter and granddaughter, Princess Anne and Zara Phillips, are also Olympians.

Fernand Sanz
There is one further member of Spanish royalty whose existence may have been ignored forever had it not been for the work of Spanish Olympic historian Fernando Arrechea. King Juan Carlos’s great-grandfather was Alfonso XII who reigned from 1874 to 1885. As well as having three children with María Cristina of Austria, Alfonso also sired two sons with his mistress, the opera singer Elena Armanda Sanz Martínez de Arizala. The youngest of these sons was Fernand Sanz, who became one the finest amateur sprint cyclists in France and, at the age of 19, was only narrowly beaten to the gold medal by Albert Taillandier at the 1900 Olympic Games. He later went to find success as an amateur boxer as well.

Year-Games Sport Event Place
1900-Summer Cycling Sprint Silver

Olympic Bio of the Day – Yvonne de Ligne

The Olympic skater convicted of murdering her husband.

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/de/yvonne-de-ligne-1.html

Born 19 September 1907 in Bruxelles (Brussels) (BEL)
Died c.1952

Year Sport Event Place
1932 Figure Skating Ladies 6th
1936 Figure skating Ladies 18th

verurteilung01-04-1946
Yvonne De Ligne achieved her best result in her first major international competition, debuting with a 6th place at the 1929 World Championships. She would match that performance in 1932, placing also sixth at the 1932 Olympics. In the European Championships, her best result was a 5th place, in 1933. De Ligne was married to speed skating Olympian Charles de Ligne, but their marriage was not a happy one. During World War II, she fell in love with a Dutch figure skater, Jacob Hartog, who was living in Antwerpen at the time. Catching his wife and her lover in their home, Charles de Ligne kicked out Hartog. Yvonne de Ligne was unhappy with this, and sought revenge. In November 1944, she led her husband to their countryside hideout. Armand Michiels, convinced Charles was a collaborator, was also “invited”, and killed him with a German weapon, to make it look like he was shot by the Gestapo. But the plot was discovered, and both Michiels (3 years) and De Ligne (15 years) were sentenced to prison terms. Yvonne de Ligne was released after serving six years, as she was suffering from tuberculosis, and died very shortly thereafter.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Ralph Boston

Happy 75th birthday to Ralph Boston

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/bo/ralph-boston-1.html

Born 9 May 1939 in Laurel, Mississippi (USA)

Year-Sport Event Place
1960 Athletics Long Jump Gold
1964 Athletics Long Jump Silver
1968 Athletics Long Jump Bronze

Until a few weeks before the 1960 Olympics, Ralph Boston seemed no more than an average long jumper. But in August he beat Jesse Owens’ 25-year-old world record with a mark of 26-11¼ (8.21) and went on to take the gold medal. In 1961 he twice improved the record, becoming the first man to jump 27 feet (8.23), but then lost the record to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan of the Soviet Union in 1962. Boston equalled that mark in August 1964, broke it the following month, and in May 1965, set his last world record with 27-5 (8.35). Boston won the AAU outdoor long jump for six successive seasons (1961-1966), the AAU indoor in 1961, and the Pan American Games in 1963 and 1967. Competing for Tennessee State, he won the NCAA outdoor title in 1960. Boston was also a gifted performer in other events. In 1961 he was undefeated in the high hurdles and won the AAU indoor in 1965. He placed fourth in the 1963 Pan American Games high jump, and in that year headed the U.S. lists in the triple jump. Ralph Boston retired after the 1968 Olympics. He was later an administrator at the University of Tennessee.

Personal Bests: 100y – 9.6 (1964); 220y – 22.0 (1964); 120yH – 13.7 (1961); HJ – 6-8½ (2.04) (1962); PV – 13-8 (4.16) (1960); LJ – 27-5 (8.35) (1965); TJ – 52-1½ (15.89) (1964); JT – 169-0 (51.51) (1959).

Olympic Bio of the Day – Parry O’Brien

On the 60th anniversary of the 1st 60-foot shot put.

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ob/parry-obrien-1.html

Born 28 January 1932 in Santa Monica, California (USA)
Died 21 April 2007 in Santa Clarita, California (USA)

Year-Sport Event Place
1952 Athletics Shot put Gold
1956 Athletics Shot put Gold
1960 Athletics Shot put Silver
1964 Athletics Shot put 4th

Although his records have now been surpassed, Parry O’Brien is, by the standards of his contemporaries, the greatest shotputter of all time. Indoors and outdoors he won a total of 17 AAU titles and between July 1952 and June 1956 he ran up a winning streak of 116 consecutive victories. He broke the world record 17 times, although only 10 of these were ratified, and he was the first man to beat the 18-meter, 60-foot, and 19-meter barriers. O’Brien set his last world record in 1959, with 63-4 (19.30), but he continued to improve and set a career best of 64-7¼ (19.69) in 1966, two years after his final Olympic appearance in Tokyo, where he placed fourth. O’Brien was Pan American Games champion in 1955 and 1959 and, while at Southern Cal, he won the NCAA title in 1952 and 1953. He also added the 1955 AAU discus championship. In discus throw he also won two medal at the Pan American Games – silver in 1955 and bronze in 1959. Apart from his multiple victories and records, Parry O’Brien made a significant contribution to the sport by pioneering a new style which was copied by many of those who followed him as world record holders. He later worked in the banking and real estate business in Southern California.

Personal Bests: SP – 64-7¼ (19.69) (1966); DT – 196-10 (59.99) (1965).

Olympic Bio of the Day – George Larner

The naked policeman who was the first Olympic walking champion.

Born 7 March 1875 in Langley, Slough (GBR)
Died 4 March 1949 in Brighton, Brighton and Hove (GBR)

Year-Sport Event Place
1908 Athletic 3500m walk Gold
10 mile walk Gold

LARNER_George_1908

George Larner did not take up competitive walking until 1903 when he was 28-years old. In 1904, when still little more than a novice, he won both AAA titles, and he repeated the double the following year. Having won four AAA titles and set nine world records, Larner then decided to retire as he found that training interfered with his duties as a Brighton policeman. Fortunately, the Chief Constable of Brighton was persuaded to give Larner time off from work to train for the 1908 Olympic Games, and after a two-year absence, Larner reappeared on the track.

Although he had an exceptionally long stride, Larner was generally rated as a very fair stylist and it came as no surprise when he was disqualified in his first comeback race, the AAA 7 mile Championship in April 1908. He soon redeemed himself by winning the AAA 2 mile title in July and then won both the Olympic walking titles later than month.

After the Games, Larner retired again from race walking but he enjoyed some modest successes as a cross-country runner with Brighton & County Harriers and Highgate Harriers. In 1911 he made another comeback and won the AAA 7 miles title, but he did not stay in training for the 1912 Olympics. After he finally tired, George Larner became a respected race walking judge and when he died, at the age of 73, many of his British records were still intact.

He published a book, simply titled “Walking”, in which he gave the following advice – “When time permits, all clothing should be removed for a run round a secluded garden, especially it if be raining at the time”.

Personal Bests: Mile Walk – 6:26.0 (1904); 2 miles Walk – 13:11.4 (1904); 3 miles Walk – 20:25.8 (1905); 10kmW – 44:58.4e (1905); 7 miles Walk – 50:50.8 (1905); 10 miles Walk – 1-15:57.4 (1908); Hour Walk – 13,275 metres (8 miles, 438 yards) (1905).

Gone but not forgotten – Olympians of 2012 and 2014 we have lost

With the tragic deaths of Yuliya Balykina, Laurent Vidal and Arnold Peralta, it is perhaps chilling to note that in the years since the London Olympic Games ended we have lost 18 men and women who competed at those Games. One competitor from the Sochi Olympics of 2014 has also passed away.

UPDATED 4 March 2016

Keitani Graham
Micronesia – Wrestling
Died 7 December 2012
Just 4 months after competing in the light-heavyweight section of the Greco-Roman wrestling tournament at London 2012, Keitani Graham suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 32.

Burry Stander
South Africa – Cycling (Mountain biking)
Died 3 January 2013
An Olympian in Beijing and London, Burry Stander narrowly missed a medal in 2012 after being involved in the five man breakaway that decided the podium positions. He was killed after being hit by a taxi whilst on a training ride.

Andrew Simpson
Great Britain – Sailing
Died 9 May 2013
From amongst the competitors at London 2012 to have passed away, Simpson is the only British Olympic champion. The 2008 gold medallist was a crew member of the Swedish America’s Cup boat, Artemis Racing, when the catamaran capsized whilst training on San Francisco Bay. Simpson was trapped beneath the water line and rescuers were unable to revive him.

Yelena Ivashchenko
Russia – Judo
Died 15 June 2013
A medal favourite at the London Olympics, heavyweight judoka Yelena Ivashchenko was instead eliminated at the quarter final phase. Allied to this a serious leg injury also threatened to end her sporting career and the former European Champion was reportedly suffering from severe depression when she committed suicide by jumping from a 15th story window of her apartment block.

Billy Ward
Australia – Boxing
Died 4 August 2013
A farm boy from rural Queensland, Billy Ward represented Australia in the light-flyweight division at London 2012. Another Olympian to have suffered from depression, he is the 2nd on this list to have committed suicide. At just 20 years of age he is the youngest 2012 Olympian to have passed away.

Abdelrahman El-Trabily
Egypt – Wrestling
Died 16 August 2013
The 2011 African Championship silver medallist, El-Trabily was a graduate of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University and a teacher of the Quran by profession. He was shot and killed while taking part in a protest march in favour of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jakkrit Panichpatikum
Thailand – Shooting
Died 19 October 2013
A few months after returning from London Jakkrit Panichpatikum was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of his wife and mother-in-law and numerous other offences. Released on bail, he was sitting in his car when he was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. His mother-in-law later confessed to have arranged the hit.

Christian López
Guatemala – Weightlifting
Died 6 November 2013
Super-heavyweight weightlifter Christian López competed at both the Beijing and London Olympics for his native Guatemala. The accountancy student passed away in late 2012 after suffering from a severe bout of Pneumonia.

Besik Kudukhov
Russia – Wrestling
Died 29 December 2013
Kudukov was the second medallist from the 2012 Games to have passed away. A 4 time world champion and Olympic medal winner in both 2008 and 2012, Kudukhov lost control over his car on the Kavkaz highway near Armavir and collided with a truck coming from the opposite direction. Kudukhov died at the scene.

Elena Baltacha
Great Britain – Tennis
Died 4 May 2014
A former top 50 player and British number one, Baltacha was diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer in January 2014 and succumbed to the disease five months later.

Camille Muffat
France – Swimming
Died 9 March 2015
A winner of 4 European titles and 4 medals at the World championships, Muffat’s greatest moment came at the London Games when won the gold medal at 400m freestyle. She was voted France’s Sportswoman of the Year for her achievement. Muffat died in a helicopter accident during the filming of a reality show for French television. She was the first London 2012 Olympic champion to pass away.

Alexis Vastine
France – Boxing
Died 9 March 2015
Although he won silver at the European championships and bronze at the Beijing Olympics, Vastine was best known for being desperately unlucky to be on the wrong end of what felt to be two unjust decisions during his Olympic career. Like Muffat he was a victim of the helicopter disaster during filming of a TV show for the TF1 TV network.

Alexis Vastine

Daundre Burnaby
Canada – Athletics
Died 27 March 2015
The Jamaican born 400 m runner competed for Canada in London and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he was a semi-finalist. Burnaby drowned in the ocean off St. Kitts in the Caribbean where he was taking part in a training camp with his Canadian team mates.

Trevor Moore
USA – Sailing
Died 25 June 2015
Trevor Moore took an inflatable powerboat out from the US Sailing Centre in Miami on the morning of June. The boat was found drifting later the same day with no sign of Moore but with his belongings still inside. US Coastguard and Florida authorities searched for him but no trace has ever been found.

Yuliya Balykina
Belarus – Athletics
Died 28 October 2015
Yuliya Balykina competed in the sprint relay in London but her career virtually ended shortly afterwards when she received a two year ban for a doping offence. After her ban ended in summer 2015 she began to pursue a career as a personal trainer.
On the 28 October 2015 she suddenly disappeared and was never seen alive again. Three weeks later her dead body was found concealed in woodlands outside Minsk. An ex-boyfriend is currently in jail awaiting trial for her murder.

Laurent Vidal
France – Triathlon
10 November 2015
A consistent performer on the world scene, Vidal headed the ITU rankings in mid 2012 and was one of the medal favourites for the London Olympics. He finished the race in 5th position which was an improvement on his 36th place finish in 2008.
In 2014 Vidal suffered a heart attack while doing swim training and had to be placed in an induced coma for him to survive, which ended his triathlon career. Unfortunately, only one year later, Vidal sustained another cardiac arrest and died at age 31. At the time of his death, he was engaged to New Zealander and world-class triathlete Andrea Hewitt.

Arnold Peralta
Honduras – Football
10 December 2015
A right-sided midfielder, Peralta started his career with Honduran side C.D.S. Vida before joining Scottish team Glasgow Rangers in 2013 and helped his new team win the Scottish League One in 2013-14. He returned to his home country in 2015 to join Olimpia. Five days after Olimpia were defeated in the semi-finals of the national championships Peralta was gunned down by unknown assailants as he walked through in a shopping mall in his home town.

Sarah Outhwaite-Tait
Australia – Rowing
3 March 2016
After reaching finals at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics the height of Sarah Tait’s Olympic career came at London 2012 when she won the silver medal as part of Australia’s coxless pair. In 2014 she was diagnosed with the cervical cancer that eventually claimed her life.
 

In addition, one competitor from the Sochi Olympics has died.
Nikolay Khrenkov
Russia – Bobsleigh
Died 2 June 2014
Less than four months after he was part of the Russian second string crew in Sochi, Nikolay Khrenkov was killed when his car was involved in a head-on collision near the town of Krasnoyarsk.

Two others who had a role at the London Olympics are also not with us anymore.

Mark Sutton
Died 14 August 2013
The stuntman who parachuted from a helicopter above the stadium during the opening ceremony dressed as James Bond. He died in a wing suit flying accident in the Swiss alps.

Sergei Ovchinnikov
Died 29 August 2012
Less than three weeks after the end of the 2012 Games, Russian volleyball coach Sergei Ovchinnikov committed suicide in his hotel room in Croatia

The figures from the previous Olympics are as follows;
2008 Olympians who died before the London Games = 15
2004 Olympians who died before the Beijing Games = 19