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1904: The Worst Olympics Ever


Not every Olympics is a hit, but the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri actually won gold when it came to the worst Games ever. To be fair, the Olympics as we know them today were brand new, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was not established until 1896, and the 1904 Games were only the third since the end of the ancient Olympics in the fourth century. . Still, the hilarious devastation of the sporting event seems like it could have been easily avoided with basic planning and some plain old common sense.

Off To A Bad Start

Originally, the 1904 Games were to be held in Chicago, but organizers of the World's Fair in St. Louis were concerned that the sporting event would steal attendance from their exhibitions. The World's Fair was a much more popular attraction at the time, but insecurities bested the Gateway of the West, and soon, St. Louis hosted its own sports championship, the Amateur Athletics Union, to lure sports enthusiasts. decided to do. from Chicago. IOC Tossed in the towel too quickly and gave the Olympics to St. Louis for fear of no one showing up. A lesser 12 countries also bothered to send athletes to the event, so most of the contestants were from the United States or Canada, and there was a lack of spectators. The competitions lasted five months due to location and organization failures.

Mashiani (left) and Taunyane before the race.

Running on Empty

Still, nothing was quite as ridiculous as what happened during the much-anticipated field and track marathon. In a surprisingly shocking move, lead organizer James Sullivan decided it was time to test the effects of "purposeful dehydration" on the body, oh, science? This meant that water was banned from the race, leaving runners without much hope of covering nearly 25 miles through the dusty plains and rolling hills of Missouri, a particularly brutal 90- degree heat.

But this was only the beginning of the grief that soon followed the runners of the 1904 Olympic Marathon. Only 14 out of 32 finished, as most gave out out of exhaustion. Boston Marathon winner John Jordan didn't even make it a mile before vomiting and falling to the ground. William Garcia was found 19 miles away, coughing up blood from the esophagus and stomach upset from all the dust on the unpaved rural roads. He almost died on the way to the hospital. Even those who managed to finish the race did not do so without drama. Tswana runners Len Taunyane and Jan Mashyani, the first ever African Olympic competitors, finished ninth and twelfth respectively, but a stray dog ​​aggressively chased Taunyane for more than a mile.

Felix Carvajal was probably the favorite to win, having been known at the time to run the full length of Cuba, but upon landing in the United States fell victim to the Big Easy's faults and lost all his money at the gambling houses of New York. Orleans. He managed to cover 600 miles to St. Louis, but lost all his belongings and had to run a marathon with completely inadequate road clothes, a beret. He showed up just before the start of the race and, having eaten little food on his journey, began begging people in the race and crossing cars to eat. He eventually stole some peaches and apples from an orchard, but the rapid intake gave him stomach cramps, and he had to lie down to take a nap in the middle of the race. Amazingly, he still finished and came in fourth place.

Thomas Hicks crossing the finish line.

Winner Takes It All?

The first person to cross the finish line was Fred Lorz, who had just won the Boston Marathon the year before, but it turned out he had only nine miles to go before giving up and taking the car. Apparently, he thought it would be a good "joke" that he won because it's just as seriously as people took back the Olympics. He very quickly abandoned the plan and admitted that he had cheated.

The real winner of the race was Thomas Hicks, who had to assist to the finish line because his trainer's plan to get around the "no water" rule was by feeding the athlete a mixture made of egg whites, brandy and strychnine(y). 'Know, that stuff we put in rat poison). He was clearly hallucinating for the most part of the final leg of the marathon and collapsed just after crossing the finish line, but hey, Olympic gold is Olympic gold.

The St. Louis Games tarnished the reputation of the Olympics so much that they actually held a do-over in 1906 at the original venue in Athens, Greece. Fortunately, the London Games of 1908 were successful, and thus began the true legacy of the highly respected and highly competitive Olympic Games we know and love today.

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