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Trending that caught Doug's eye... Olympic embarrassments

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During the Sochi opening ceremonies, a giant snowflake that was supposed to morph into an Olympic ring failed to launch, leaving four rings of the iconic symbol dangling in mid-air.

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

During the Sochi opening ceremonies, a giant snowflake that was supposed to morph into an Olympic ring failed to launch, leaving four rings of the iconic symbol dangling in mid-air.

When the going gets weird, the weird get going!

Those inspiring words should probably replace "Faster, Higher, Stronger" as the official Olympic motto.

It seems whenever the eyes of the world become fixed on a host Olympic city, strange things happen, on and off the fields of competition.

During the Sochi opening ceremonies, a giant snowflake that was supposed to morph into an Olympic ring failed to launch, leaving four rings of the iconic symbol dangling in mid-air.

Then on Day 1 of the Games, American bobsledder Johnny Quinn, a former pro football player with the Green Bay Packers, became trapped in his bathroom in the athletes' village. His cries for help went unheeded, so the six-foot, 220-pound Quinn simply relied on his bobsled training and battered his way through the door, then posted pictures of the debris on social media.

On Sunday, speed skater Olga Graf gave Russia its first medal after grabbing bronze in the women's 3,000 metres, then promptly gave the Games its first wardrobe malfunction.

Graf celebrated by waving to the jubilant crowd, then unzipped her skin-tight lycra suit down to her belly button, forgetting she wasn't wearing anything underneath. While undeniably awkward, we're not sure these moments measure up to five of our favourite Olympic embarrassments:

THE OLYMPICS -- The 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland

THE CRINGEWORTHY MOMENT -- With the competitors' weird, waddling movements, race walking is an odd sport at the best of times. In 1952, Sweden's John Mikaelsson was the easy winner of the 10-kilometre walk, leaving Switzerland's Schwab and the USSR's Junk to battle for silver and bronze. In the race's closing stages, the two walkers were clearly running -- which is when both feet lose contact with the ground -- and were about to be disqualified. But, when a race official approached to deliver the bad news, they simply ran away from him, sprinting to the finish before they could be ruled out. Because the rules stated competitors could only be disqualified "during the course of the race," Junk (silver) and Schwab (bronze) got to keep their medals, even though it was obvious they'd broken the rules.

 

THE OLYMPICS -- The 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis

THE CRINGEWORTHY MOMENT -- The men's marathon was held on an oppressively hot August afternoon, and less than half of the competitors managed to finish. The first man across the line was American Fred Lorz, who was greeted with cheers from the crowd, and Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the U.S. president, placed a laurel wreath on his head. Before accepting the gold medal, Lorz confessed to a minor breach of the rules -- after collapsing about nine miles into the race, he hitched a ride back to the stadium in a car, which reportedly broke down at the 19-mile mark, which is when he re-entered the race and casually jogged across the finish. The man dubbed "Lorz of the Rings" insisted he only broke the winner's tape as a "joke," but Olympic officials didn't find it amusing. He was banned from further competitions, but was soon reinstated and won the Boston Marathon in 1905, presumably under his own steam.

 

THE OLYMPICS -- The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney

THE CRINGEWORTHY MOMENT -- Equatorial Guinea's Eric Moussambani got on his nation's Olympic swimming team because he was the only person that responded to a plea on the radio. Even though he had never seen a 50-metre pool in his life, he was admitted because the IOC had relaxed standards to lure more athletes from developing nations. In the opening heat of the 100-metre freestyle, the man who came to be known as "Eric the Eel" stood alone on the block because his two competitors had jumped the gun and been disqualified. "The Eel" belly-flopped into the pool, then flailed through the water, pausing once to catch his breath, getting slower with every stroke as the crowd cheered desperately and lifeguards stood by to pull him out of the pool if needed. Sporting blue trunks as opposed to the amphibian Spandex of other swimmers, he thrashed his way to a time of one minute, 52.7 seconds, the slowest in Olympic history and not good enough for the next round. Still, it turned a man who had learned to swim only 12 months earlier into a sporting icon. Embarrassing? Maybe. Inspiring? Absolutely!

 

THE OLYMPICS -- The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal

THE CRINGEWORTHY MOMENT -- The modern pentathlon is a challenging five-discipline event that includes fencing. During the fencing portion of the event in Montreal, the opponents of Boris Onischenko, a major in the Red Army and a star in the sport, started to suspect something was wrong because the Soviet athlete was scoring points without hitting anyone. Finally, officials confiscated his weapon and discovered what seemed like the plot from a spy movie -- the Soviets had managed to rig the sword so Boris could press a hidden button and trigger the electronic scoring system at will. In the end, "Disonischenko" and the Soviet squad were banished, and the rules of the sport were changed to ban grips that could hide wires or switches. Britain won the gold. Touché, Boris!

 

THE OLYMPICS -- The 1988 Winter Games in Calgary

THE CRINGEWORTHY MOMENT -- We are putting "The Eagle" at the top of this list because, when he took flight at the Olympics, he finished at the bottom. Also, we met him in 2010 when he carried the Olympic torch in Winnipeg and he's a cool guy. A drywaller by trade, Eddie shot to fame in 1988 when, thanks to lax standards, he became the first British man to compete in ski jumping. The world took to Eddie because even though he was short on talent, he was long on heart, completely self-funded and competed in borrowed equipment that was way too big. When he took flight from the 90-metre tower -- armed with his crooked grin and vision so weak his trademark eyeglasses were as thick as the bottoms of Coke bottles -- he didn't so much soar like an eagle as plummet like a dead parrot. He finished 58th out of 59 competitors, thanks to a French jumper who broke his leg the day before the event. Organizers later changed the rules to prevent anyone like Eddie from competing again. But we loved this heroic loser, because if he could do it, then just maybe we could do it, too. And if that's not the (bad word) Olympic spirit, we don't know what is.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 D2

History

Updated on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 7:18 PM CST: Corrects to reflect that Sydney Games were in 2000.

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