The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace.
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder high.
Yesterday, two helicopters crashed in Argentina during the filming of a reality survival show. All aboard the choppers were killed, including French swimmer Camille Muffat, a gold medalist in the 400 metre freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, and Alexis Vastine, a French boxing bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was, sadly, not the first time that plane disasters claimed the lives of Olympic athletes, often those still young, still in their prime, still with lives to live, victories to win, and laughs to laugh.
Today the road all runners come,
Shoulder high we bring you home.
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Camille Muffat 1989-2015 RIP
Shortly after the 1948 Winter Olympics, on 8 November 1948, the Czechoslovak ice hockey team boarded a flight from Paris to London, but the plane disappeared over the English Channel, and six Czechoslovak Olympians, along with all the other passengers, would skate no more. Gone were Jaroslav Jiřík, Karel Stibor, Ladislav Troják, Miloslav Pokorný, Vilibald Šťovík, and Zdeněk Jarkovský.
Smart lad to slip betimes away,
From fields where glory does not stay.
For quickly though the laurel grows,
It withers quicker than a rose.
On 15 February 1961 the US figure skating was travelling to the World Championships in Praha, Czechoslovakia, when their Sabena Boeing 707 crashed on approach to the Brussels airport in Belgium, Everyone was killed including the entire US figure skating team, which included Olympians Laurie Owen, Maribel Owen, Maribel Vinson Owen, Dudley Richards, Ray Hadley, Jr., and Ila Ray Hadley.
Eyes the shady night has shut,
Cannot see the record cut.
And silence sounds no worse than cheers,
After earth has stopped the ears.
In August 1979, two Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-134s collided over Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine, killing 178 including the complete football team of Pakhtakor Toshkent. On the plane was Soviet footballer Vladimir Fyodorov, who had played for the Soviet Union at the 1976 Montréal Olympics.
Now you will not swell the rout,
Of lads who wore their honors out.
Runners whom renown outran,
And the name died before the man.
On 27 April 1993, a Buffalo DHC-5D of the Zambian Air Force crashed off the coast of Gabon about 500 metres from Libreville, killing all 30 aboard including 18 Zambian footballers and their coaches. This include 8 previous Zambian Olympians – Alex Chola, Derby Makinka, Efford Chabala, Eston Mulenga, Godfrey Chitalu, Richard Mwanza, Samuel Chomba, and Wisdom Chansa.
The Zambian team at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations pay tribute to the lost generation of Zambian football.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
On 7 September 2011, a Yakovlev Yak-42D carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team crashed on take-off from Tunoshna Airport, in Yaroslavl, Russia. Olympians from five different nations were lost that night – Pavol Demitra (Slovakia), Stefan Liv (Sweden), Ruslan Saley (Belarus), Kārlis Skrastiņš (Latvia), and Josef Vašíček (Czech Republic).
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s. – A. E. Housman
There have been others. And likely there will sadly be more in the future. For the most complete list of Olympians who have died in plane crashes, see our list at http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/friv/lists.cgi?id=2. May they all rest in peace, may we give honor to their lives, and may they stay, in our memories, forever young.