The 2014 Winter Olympics are just around the corner.
They’re sure to offer plenty of triumphs, but for every Brian Boitano,
there’s a Tonya Harding. Here are some other spectacular Olympic duds.
This squad came from out of nowhere, and behind the Iron Curtain, to absolutely dominate the luge in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. East German lugers finished first, second, and fourth in the games. Their success was inexplicable…or was it? Officials later discovered that they’d won so thoroughly due to the time-honored strategy of cheating. The team had placed heated runners on their sled to increase their speed. Their medals were revoked and the third-place Italian team was given the gold, after the fact.
The 1984 U.S. Men’s Hockey Team
The 1980 Winter Olympics were the site of the “miracle on ice.” The U.S. men’s hockey team, comprised of scrappy amateurs and college players, managed to beat the Soviet Union’s supposedly unconquerable team. It’s still considered one of the most thrilling and definitive Olympic moments. Expectations were high for the U.S. team in 1984, but there was no second miracle. They lost their first two matches, against Canada and Czechoslovakia, before tying Norway and defeating Austria. That late victory wasn’t enough to get them to a medal round. The Americans came in seventh place and didn’t have a strong showing in men’s hockey until 2002, when Olympics officials allowed NHL players to participate. That year, the U.S. took the silver medal.
“Eddie the Eagle”
British skier Eddie Edwards wasn’t willing to let poor eyesight, some extra pounds, and a lack of funding stand in the way of his Olympic dreams. After not making the cut for England’s downhill team at the 1984 Olympics, Edwards switched to ski jumping—mainly because there wasn’t anybody else in his country trying to qualify for the event. Edwards rented a room in a Finnish mental ward (it was cheap) and trained on some slopes nearby. Edwards was allowed to compete at the ’88 games in Calgary…and came in dead last. Nevertheless, “Eddie the Eagle” became a celebrity at home and abroad. Officials later tightened regulations to prevent other hopeless athletes from following his example. This new stipulation became known as the “Eddie the Eagle Rule.”
Located right on the Equator and without a lot of mountaintop skiing facilities, Kenya isn’t a country typically associated with winter sports. None of this stopped Kenyan Philip Boit from going for the gold in cross-country skiing at the 1998 games. Unfortunately, he came in at 92nd place in the 10 km—dead last. Nevertheless, he was the first Kenyan to ever participate in the Winter Olympics, and he returned for the 2002 games. That year, he finished 64th in the sprinting event. He came back again in 2006 and landed in 92nd in the 15 km Classic. That might sound bad…but he did finish ahead of five other guys.