Most Painful Mistakes in Olympic History

Sat 31 July 2021 | 12:00

Despite the many efforts for Olympic Games to be held healthy and standard, several cases have gotten out of control, which we are going to take a look at this article today. Stay tuned to the end of the article.

Today's article contains the events within the popular sports tournament, the Olympic Games, that seem painful for the participants and sometimes for the hosts. Holding a wide range of memorable, extraordinary, and glorious moments during its long history, the Olympic Games have also seen many painful mistakes and blunders.

Despite doing the most suitable to bring out the best in terms of the tournament and participant excellence, trying to do the best in athletes, judges, and even national sporting federations have made mistakes consciously or unconsciously, which ruined all their efforts. 

As the noted and famous historian and author of the world's leading Olympic, David Wallechinsky, has recorded, the history of this well-liked tournament is full of scandals, big and small.

Wallechinsky is interested in strange occurrences and believes that the bloopers and blunders which happen during the Olympics might seem painful and horrible at first glance, especially for the athletes and their fans but generally add the excitement and fun of the games. 

Here, we have collected the biggest blunders in Olympic history- Forbes and depicted each case to show how painful they have been for the doers. So, without more ado, let's begin the article and read about the events, though unpleasant but full of excitement. 

A Look at the list of the Worst Olympic Falls and Blunders

Through today's article, we have presented a list of stories, that as are mentioned in the competitions' records they are the most painful mistakes in Olympic history. Join us through the following article to get about the kinds of various unprecedented issues which have happened and made the moments the most memorable ones in Olympic history.

Fencing Duel

  • Year: 1924 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Paris 

The 1924 Summer Olympics Fencing program contained the men's saber, a kind of seven fencing contest. The seventh competition of the event was the contest that 47 fencers from 15 nations had participated.

Each country had appeared in the competition with four fencers, four fewer than their number in 1920. One of Hungary's fencers, who had begun a nine-Games streak and won the men's saber gold medal, Sandor Posta, won the event. Rober Ducret from France and Janos Garay from Hungary respectively came in second and third place with their silver and bronze medals. 

The issue that made these competitions one of 

10 of the worst Olympic falls and blunders

 refer to Oreste Puliti, the Italian fencer. The story was as follows that all Italian fencers schemed to fail against Puliti to multiply hie score.

Accusing his teammates of carrying out the pre-arranged conspiracy incensed Puliti and led him to threaten to assault, or in another narration, assault Gyorgy Kovacs, a Hungary referee. However, the team had a complaint about the Hungarian Judges' handling. Following the insulation, the challenge of an actual duel occurred between the Italian coach and a Hungarian one, Italo Santelli, based on the latter's suggestion.

However, instead of appearing himself, the 60-year-old coach used his 27-year-old son, Giorgio Santelli. They did it near the Hungarian border, in the town of Abbazia, with heavy sabers, which did not last more than two minutes due to landing a tierce of a quarter in the side of Contronei's forehead.

Death of a Danish Cyclist

  • Year: 1960 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Rome

One of the other

most painful mistakes in Olympic history

is the one that ended in the death of an athlete. At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, Denmark appeared with 100 competitors, containing 88 men and 12 women, which participated in 46 events in 15 sports.

One of them was cycling, including two road cycling events and four track cycling events for men. One of the participants was Knud Enemark Jensen, whose three wins in the Københavns district and six championships had earned him prominence. Having been chosen for the Olympic team, Knud appeared on the day of the Roma team time trial, which was extremely hot. The heat led him to be collapsed and hit his head.

Despite the quick help of the military ambulance to take Knud to hospital, he fell into a coma and died. In addition to a brain injury secondary to a skull fracture, initial reports from the hospital contained some data that reported the presence of various amphetamines in his body.

However, authorities and Danish cycling denied it as the reason for his death. Decades later, the doctor who had performed the cyclist's autopsy talked about amphetamines in the athlete's system. The event was the beginning point of testing for drugs at the 1968 Olympic Games. 

The Lucky Hero

  • Year: 2002 Winter Olympics

  • Host: Salt Lake City

The following section of the article, most painful mistakes in Olympic history, is about a strange story regarding an Australian former short-track speed skater and four-time Olympian, Steven John Bradbury. As reviewing the Olympic history shows, his winning at the 2002 Olympic Games was the most bizarre amongst all Australian victories at the tournament.

The mistakes of his four rivals due to the tumbled and sprawled around the ice led them to collide and provided the opportunity of skating alone and cross the finish line, and earned him the title of "the Accidental Hero."

This sensational scene was the end of Bradbury's career after appearing in four Olympics, winning a bronze medal, and experiencing some horrific injuries. Involving in two career-threatening accidents, a crash in Montreal, which ended in 111 stitches, and 18 months' recovery time are examples that explain his career history well. After the strange race, Bradbury said, "God smiles on you some days, and this is my day." 

Men's Marathon

  • Year: 1904 Summer Olympics

  • Host: St. Louis

The sports followers saw one of the most painful mistakes in Olympic history at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, United States. They held the men's marathon over a distance of 24.85 miles with representing 32 athletes from four nations.

However, only 14 of them finished the race. Fredrick "Fred" Lorz, an American long-distance runner and the winner of the 1905 Boston Marathon, is the athlete whose performance at the 1904 Summer Olympic has brought his name to the current list. 

Having appeared in the marathon at the 1904 Olympic Games and running about nine miles (14.5 km), Lorz gave up due to much exhaustion. Through the help of his manager, Lorz passed the next eleven miles (17.7 km) by his car.

Then he continued barefoot to the Olympic stadium and crossed the finishing line tape, made him the race's winner. Besides the spectators who greeted Lorz, some others claimed about what he did, which Lorz admitted their acclamation soon and admitted as a joke. Later, the Amateur Athletic Union banned him for life though his apology for the stunt and his intention, which was not defrauding, led him back.

Wrong Judges

  • Year: 1988 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Seoul

Roy Levesta Jones Jr., an American former professional boxer, is one of the athletes who experienced a situation that records recall as one of the 

most painful mistakes in Olympic history

. Representing the United States at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Jones appeared in the 156-pound weight class as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team.

The final was between him and Park Si-Hun, the South Korean fighter, in which Jones' 2-3 decision losing led to controversy because Jones had pummeled Park for three rounds, landed 86 punches to Park's 32.

Reportedly, the scene of raising the Park's hand was unbelievable for Aldo Leoni, the Italian referee, that had told Jones, "I can't believe they are doing this to you." Additionally, the Park's apologies afterward was an admission of something mistake. In 1996, eight years later, the U.S. Olympic Committee revealed some documents that reported paying money to judges to vote for the South Korean boxer.

Though the judges lost his right due to wrong judgment in this match, his career history is full of honors, including holding multiple world championships in four weight classes at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. Considered by many to be one of the best boxers of all time, Jones is the record holder for the most wins in unified light heavyweight title bouts in boxing history. 

Irreparable Mistake at Start Time

  • Year: 1972 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Munich

Amongst the list of the most painful mistakes in Olympic history, the story of Edward James "Eddie" Hart and Reynaud Syverne "Rey" Robinson, two formers American sprinters, is one of the most high-profile Olympic blunders.

Both of them appeared at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1972, and through repeating the world record by running the 100 m in 9.9 seconds, they made themselves qualified to win the race at the Olympic Games. However, all their desires ended in nothing elimination in the 100 m race because of their coach, Stan Wright.

He had used an outdated Olympic schedule unknowingly and announced the wrong starting time of the quarterfinal heat. This blunder led these two talented athletes with brilliant performances to fail to deliver to the track on time.

Reportedly, the mistake, which had stemmed from disorganization, caused a great deal of controversy. If the mistake had not happened in the competitions, would the tournament have led to a completely different result?

Unforeseen Showboating method

  • Year: 2006 Winter Olympics

  • Host: Turin

One of the other cases on the list of the

biggest blunders in Olympic history- Forbes

 is about an American snowboarder, Lindsey Jacobellis. The owner of the silver medal in Women's Snowboard Cross and a ten-time snowboard cross champion at the X Games is the athlete whose strange performance at the 2006 Winter Olympics marked an unbelievable ending for her. 

Appearing at the gold medal final of the Snowboard Cross at the 2006 Winter Olympics, Jacobellis was three seconds ahead of her Switzerland opponent, Tanja Frieden, while he was too close to the end of the course.

Her mistake was that on the second-to-last jump, she decided to show an effortful and bothersome method. By performing the opinion, Jacobellis landed on the edge of her snowboard, which led her to fall. After falling due to performing an unplanned move, Frieden passed her and could achieve the gold.

However, the gold medal was in her hands if and only if she had given up the method. At all, she ended the competition in silver. Later, through a televised interview, Jacobellis described the grab as meant to keep her stability but later said that "I was having fun. Snowboarding is fun, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd."


  • Year: 1912 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Stockholm

The following paragraph is about Sigrid Fick, a Finnish-born tennis player whose story within the 1912 Summer Olympics made her appearance one of 

10 of the most painful mistakes and embarrassing blunders in Olympic history


Fick appeared at Olympic competitions three times in 1912, 1920, and 1924, which within the first time it earned her winning two mixed doubles. The tournament was the host of an outdoor mixed doubles match as a part of the tennis program for the games. Despite participating in 13 teams, six of them played in the tournament.

Among these six teams, Dorothea Koring and Heinrich Schomburgk played as a German pair, which became the winner of the event. Sigrid Fick and Gunner Setterwall were the pair that won silver and were the athletes whose mistake brought their names here.

David Wallechinsky, the American populist historian and television commentator, narrated the event and said, "In the mixed doubles tennis final, Sigrid Fick of Sweden inadvertently smashed her partner, Gunner Setterwall." As Official Report announced for 1912, the unintended accident caused him to leave the game. Finally, they ended in losing the gold, 6-4- 6-0.

Five Pounds Overweight

  • Year: 1936 Summer Olympics

  • Host: Berlin

One of the events at the 1936 Summer Olympics was the men's lightweight, in which the sports lovers witnessed one of the 

most painful mistakes in Olympic history

. As the fourth-lightest contested, the boxers up to 135 pounds (61.2 Kilograms) could participate in the games, held on 11 August 1936. At all, 26 athletes from 26 nations became qualified to take part in the competition.

One of the players was Thomas Hamilton-Brown, a South African boxer, at the time of holding 1936 Olympic history, a 20-year-old contestant. Though Thomas had done his best and performed professionally, it was as if luck was not with him. Through a scoring miscalculation, the judges announced his opponent as the winner. However, Thomas was the real one.

The disturbing mistake led him to be eliminated in the first round of the lightweight class and lost the fight to Carlos Lillo, his Chilean rival. As Wallechinsky has reported, Thomas spent several other days of the event eating bing to try to soften the disappointment. Later, the judges noticed a mistake they had made in scoring and announced Thomas as the actual winner of the fight.

However, it was too late for him to get rid of the five pounds overweight during the next day's weigh-in he had put through the excessive eating binge. Finally, the overweight did not allow him to take part at the next level.

Napping at the Time of the Tournament

  • Year: 1960 Summer Olympic

  • Host: Rome, Italy

One of the other tournaments which witnessed one of the most painful mistakes in Olympic history was the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. Siegfried Willem "Wim" Esajas, a middle-distance runner from Suriname, is the athlete whose mistake within the Games made him wait eight more years to participate at another Olympian. 

Being predicted as the first Surinamese Olympian, Esajas did not appear in it and missed the event just because of oversleeping. Later, it became clear that Fred Glans, the head of Suriname's Olympic delegation, had announced Esajas the wrong starting time. 

The multiple national record holder of the 800 m, 1500 m, and 3000 m during the 1950s, the Surinamese Sportsman of the Year in 1956, retired from the sport after the mordant event he experienced at the 1960 Sumer Olympic in Rome, Italy.

Several years later, only two weeks before his death, in 2005, to apologize for the mistake of Suriname's Olympic Committee official in 1960, they presented him with a plaque honoring and a letter containing excuse words. 

Through the article, we gathered a list of the ten most painful mistakes in Olympic history and explained each of them in as much information as possible. However, the exact number of such cases, which have happened during the Olympic Games, is more than the mentioned ones in today's article.

As always, our team in


welcomes your ideas regarding the published topics. So, if there are any points about the 10 of the most painful mistakes and embarrassing blunders in Olympic history, share with us through the comment section.

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