There is a lot of hype surrounding the South African runner Oscar Pistorius (also known as the ‘Blade Runner’). Pistorius was born without fibulas and with deformities of his feet, and subsequently had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was only 11 months old. He competes with carbon fiber prosthetic legs, and is entered in the 400m and the 4 x 400 m relay races at the 2012 Olympics. This is a great story of achievement, though he has had to overcome a lot more than just his disability to reach the Olympics, having many bureaucratic hurdles to overcome too to get his place on the South African team. Even though he has been hailed by many as the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics, he is in fact part of a long history of disabled athletes to do so.
Some media have reported correctly that Pistorius is the first “double” amputee to compete at the Olympic Games. There has been other amputees missing portions of one leg who have competed at the Olympics, and some have even won gold medals. In 1904 American gymnast George Eyser won three gold medals for the vault, parallel bars and rope climbing. Eyser lost a leg when he was a kid in a train accident, and competed wearing a wooden leg. From 1928 to 1936, Hungarian Oliver Halassy won two golds and one silver in water polo. He achieved this despite missing his left leg that had been amputated below the knee following a childhood streetcar accident. Another amputee to compete at the Olympics is South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is missing her left leg. She came 16th in the open water 10km swim in 2008.
These are just some examples – there are many more disabled athletes who have participated at the Olympics, including other amputees, those that were blind, paraplegic or affected by polio. See more on Disabled Athletes at the Olympics, and also about the Paralympics.
Tags: disability·Oscar Pistorius·Paralympics
With the Olympic Games starting now, I feel like it is time for me to make my predictions for the final medal tally. It seems like everyone else is doing it. I have discussed a few prediction models on this site that use science and results from recent competitions. My prediction is based on something a little less scientific, my gut feeling and reflection, so don’t place too much emphasis on it. It will be interesting to see how my list performs compared to the other predictions, only time and a bit of number crunching will tell.
Here is my final top 10 predictions for gold medals won:
- 40 USA
- 33 China
- 26 Great Britain
- 24 Russia
- 15 Germany
- 11 Japan
- 10 Australia
- 10 Italy
- 9 France
- 8 South Korea
UPDATE: Now that the Olympics are over, it is time to score how well my predictions were. I got the first four in order. The only country I did not predict to make the top 10 was Hungary, which finished 9th on the official table with 8 golds, pushing Japan outside the top 10.
|my order prediction
Tags: gold medals·medal tally·Olympic Games·olympics
We have a poll running on this site asking what is your favorite summer Olympic Games sport? The clear leaders at the moment are swimming, gymnastics, and track & field. This also matches the results of the most viewed sports on the Olympics website in 2004. To most Olympic watchers, the popularity of these sports is not surprising, but it should be if you consider that the undisputed most popular sport in the world (world football/soccer) is also one of the sports on the Olympic program, and other very popular sports that are on the program are basketball and tennis.
Outside of the Olympic period, you rarely see swimming, gymnastics, and track & field televised, and there are no stadiums full of spectators at these sports every week. The reality is that they are not that interesting to watch – except at the time of the Olympics it seems. It is football (whatever code), basketball, baseball, cricket and many other sports that are more popular with the fans week in and week out. At Olympic time, unfortunately it is not just the sports fans that are watching, so the most entertaining sports are not necessarily the most watched and getting the most attention.
Tags: gymnastics·Olympic Games·sports·swimming
I recently wrote about Women Olympic Games Pioneers in which I discussed some of the early women participants at the Olympics, and the slow move to equality in women’s participation at the Olympic Games. There has been some great moves towards creating the opportunity for women to compete in the same sports as the men, with the inclusion of women’s boxing now completing the set so there are women’s events in all sports on the program. This is a great thing, but the reality is that there are huge barriers for women to even compete in any sport in some countries of the world, let alone the Olympic Games.
Up until now, three Muslim countries have never before sent a female athlete to compete at the Olympics: Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter clearly promotes equality: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind.” However, the IOC seems to be doing very little to support the women competitors from these countries.
Each of these countries have made comments that suggest there may be sending some female participants to London, but we will have to wait and see. If Qatar are serious about their bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, they need to send a clear message to the IOC, as it seems the IOC is not sending any clear messages back at them.
With the addition of women’s boxing to the Olympics for 2012, all sports on the program now have events for women. However, women have had a long road to equality at the Olympics. There are some interesting stories and little known facts about early female participation in the Olympic Games.
The Ancient Olympic Games was limited to males athletes only, and they had to be free and Greek speaking too, with only male spectators allowed as the athletes participated in the nude! The only way women were able to take part was to enter horses in the equestrian events. There are records of several winning women horse owners. As the owner of the horse teams, they were credited with the victory, though they were most likely not present at the events.
Following on from the Ancient Olympics, women were also not invited to the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in 1896. Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games with the inclusion of women’s events in lawn tennis and golf. There were also three French women competing in croquet and there was at least one woman sailor as part of mixed crews.
It is commonly believed that first woman to win an Olympic event was England’s Charlotte Cooper, who won the tennis singles title and also the mixed doubles event. However, a month or two earlier Swiss sailor Hélène de Pourtalès won a gold medal as part of a team in the 1-2 ton Olympic sailing event. Charlotte Cooper is clearly the first woman Olympic champion, as winner of the women’s tennis singles tournament, though Hélène de Pourtalès should be rightly heralded as the first woman to compete at the Olympics and the first female Olympic gold medalist.
Related Pages: women at the Olympics, First Female Olympic Medalist
You would be surprised about some of the countries that have once participated at the Olympic Games. Regions such as Saarland and Bohemia participated at previous Games, but no longer exist independently. The Saar existed from 1947 to 1956 in part of Western Germany that was occupied by France, and only competed at one Olympics in 1952 before joining Germany. Bohemia athletes competed at the Olympic Games between 1900-1912. After World War I, Bohemia became part of the new Czechoslovakia, which itself lasted until 1993 when it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Then there are short lived unions, such as The United Arab Republic which was made up of Egypt and Syria, and the West Indies Federation, a combined team from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Both of these teams competed at the Olympics only once, in 1960.
What about athletes with no team – athletes from Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia competed as Independent Olympic Participants in 1992, and athletes from East Timor competed as Individual Olympic Athletes at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Also, after the break up of the Soviet Union, the independent states competed under the banner of The Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
I wonder which teams competing in 2012 in London will one day join this list of past teams. Border disputes and wars will continue, and the countries of the world will continue to evolve. But, no matter what, most athletes will have a country to compete for, even though the names may change.
Related Pages: all Olympic Participating Countries, past participating countries
The 2012 Australian Tennis Open starts today, and is set to offer the highest prize money in the history of Grand Slam tennis around the world. The total prize pool will be A$26 million, with the men’s and women’s champions taking home a record A$2.3 million (US$2.18 million) each. Does that sound excessive to you? It may be because I am not a great tennis fan, but I cannot see why we need to give them that much. As it is a grand slam event, you don’t need to offer large amounts to entice players to come and play. The winner of any tennis grand slam event will probably boost their off court earnings more than that anyway by being more marketable. Some of you probably will not agree with my next comment (and that’s OK). Another thing that bugs me is that the event organizers have decided that both the men’s and women’s champions will earn the same amount (in 2007 Wimbledon decided to do the same), despite more interest in the men’s side of the tournament, with longer more entertaining games, and consequently better revenue raising potential. I’ll still be watching the men’s final, and afterwards I hope they can give a little back of their millions to the grass roots of their sport.
Related Pages: Australian Open, Tennis
Tags: Australia·australian open·grand slam·prize money·Tennis
rugby union national team names and was surprised to find out that Ireland and Scotland don’t really have one, and that England’s name of the Red and Whites is also not commonly used. Here in the southern hemisphere the terms Wallabies and All Blacks are practically the official names of the national teams of Australia and New Zealand. However, have you ever heard of these teams that are in the current Rugby World Cup: Bati (Fiji), The Brave Blossoms (Japan), Welwitschias (Namibia), and the Oaks (Romainia)?
Related Pages: Rugby Union, Rugby National Team Names, Rugby World Cup
Tags: nicknames·rugby·World Cup
Paul the ‘Psychic’ Octopus, also known as the ‘Oracle of Oberhausen’ and ‘Pulpo Paul’, is a resident of the Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium. He became a celebrity after a 100% success rate at predicting the winners of eight World Cup matches – all of Germany’s games and the final between Spain and The Netherlands. I want to go out on a (octopus) limb, and say that it was all due to chance. I know it may sound far-fetched and very unlikely, but maybe he was just lucky and was able to select the winning teams through chance. No psychic abilities, no hand of God, and no conspiracies – just luck. A lot of luck.
Tags: betting·FIFA World Cup·football·Germany·octopus·soccer
If you have been focused on the Football World Cup, you may not have noticed that after three days of playing, the longest tennis match in history has just finished – what a marathon. The match was played between between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut at the Wimbledon Championships, starting on June 22 and finishing on the 24th. The match eventually took 11 hours and 5 minutes, spread over three days. The match was won by Isner 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68. The fifth set was the longest set in history as determined by both duration and number of games and the set itself would have broken the previous longest match record of 6 hours 33 minutes. The US Open is the only of the Grand Slams to use a tie breaker in the final set on the singles, the other tournaments use an advantage set, meaning they keep playing until there is a winner by two games clear. As you can see, this can mean a game can go on indefinitely. I hope the others don’t follow the US example and remove the advantage set, as we could miss out of such dramatic games as this.
Tags: grand slam·Tennis·Wimbledon