The Olympics have been held as a celebration of human achievement and athletic prowess ever since the summer of 776 B.C.— a tradition that’s thousands of years old. However, that said, not every moment at the Olympics is about grit, determination, and talent. You see a fair number of blunders, hilarious mistakes, and scandalous moments across the event’s long history. Let’s take a look at some of the most bizarre ones:
You heard that right. One of the oddest instances on this list just happened this week! While you wouldn’t think that outfits were high on the priority list for people flying off a ski ramp at 100 \kph, it turns out that the wrong clothing can actually get you disqualified.
Five ski jumpers—all of them women—learned this the hard way when representing Austria, Japan, Norway, and Germany during the mixed-team jump event. According to officials, the suits were “too big and offered an aerodynamic advantage,” causing the competitors to tear up while their teams protested in outrage.
“We were looking forward to the second competition at the Olympics. FIS destroyed that with this action—they destroyed women’s ski jumping,” Germany’s Katharina Althaus, who was one of those disqualified, told Reuters.
Angel Matos of Cuba and his coach Leudis Gonzalez were banned for life after Matos kicked the referee in the face following his bronze-medal match disqualification. Matos, who won a gold medal at the Sydney Games in 2000, was disqualified at first for taking too much injury time. He responded by pushing a judge, and then kicked referee Chakir Chelbat right in the face.
Gonzalez offered no apology for Matos’ actions during the men’s over-80kg match. Talk about being unsportsmanlike.
The 1904 marathon was in no small way an unmitigated disaster. Not only were several contestants first-time runners, the event organizers even withheld water from the runners as part of an ‘experiment’.
The result? One runner suffered from internal bleeding due to dust inhalation, while another was chased off the road by a pack of wild dogs. Watching the chaos unfold, American Fred Lorz decided to skip the marathon’s second half, hitching a car ride to the finish line. The (extremely dimwitted) judges did not realize that he had driven there, and gave him the award, only before organizers had him disqualified.
As you can see above, the Olympics were a very imprecisely held event in the early 20th century, and this led to an innumerable number of disputes, fights, and confusing moments for judges. In 1908, Brit runner Wyndham Halswelle won the gold medal in the men’s 400-metre race, while American John Carpenter (who originally came first) was disqualified for blocking Halswelle.
This was illegal under British rules, but legal under American rules, prompting a repeat race. The American team protested the decision by not running, making Halswelle the only medallist in the event.
We’ve all heard of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs to cheat themselves into a win, but what about a special fencing weapon or épée, designed specifically to score points at the touch of a button?
A pentathlon is a 5-round event that consists of shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrian, and cross-country running events—and one of its most famous figures is the wrongdoer in this story. Trailing closely behind Britain in fourth place, three-time world champion Boris Onishchenko was accused by British team captain Jim Fox of using a tampered weapon.
The Soviet was soon discovered to be using a modified switch to score unearned points, leading to not only his disqualification but also public humiliation and shame. After a lifetime ban, the disgraced athlete drove a cab in Kyiv for the rest of his days.