Show Jumper Cian O’Connor was stripped of his gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. O’Connor didn’t do the jumping himself. The Irishman is an equestrian, who rode a horse named Waterford Crystal. In competition horses also get tested for illegal drugs, and at the Athens Games, traces of various anti-psychotic and pain relieving drugs were found in Waterford Crystal.
Apparently, anti-pscyhotic drugs like fluphenazine are commonly used to calm horses, particularly in cases when horses have been injured and completed treatment, but won’t stay calm and allow their wounds to heal. Another drug like reserpine acts as a long-lasting sedative, which is likely prescribed for similar reasons as fluphenzine. They were likely in Waterford Crystal in order to calm this excitable horse and thus give the rider a more stable mount in competition.
Clearly the horse has no say in the matter. The team around the horse, including the rider and the trainer, are held accountable for what goes in the body of the horse. About a year after the Athens Olympics, O’Connor had to return his gold medal, and Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil became the new showjumping king, trading his silver for gold. Chris Kappler of America got to trade his bronze for silver, and suddenly, Marco Kutscher of Germany was awarded a bronze medal.
Four years later in Beijing, a horse named Camiro was found to have the illegal pain killer, capsaicin, in her system. Camiro was the horse of rider Tony Andre Hansen, who was one of four members of the Norwegian jumping team. Camiro apparently failed the first of two drug tests so Hansen was not allowed to compete in the individual jumping event, but was allowed to compete in the team event, at which Norway took the bronze medal.
The Norwegian team stood on the medal podium and sank in the cheers and congratulations. Ten days later, after the Beijing Games had completed, Camiro failed a second test. With Hansen’s horse now DQ’ed, the Norwegian team dropped from third to tenth in the point totals. The four members of Team Switzerland were suddenly bronze medalists.
As for Cian O’Connor, eight years later at the 2012 Olympics, he was able to ride a horse named Blue Loyd 12 to the medal podium, taking the bronze medal in the London Games.
Koji Murofushi of Japan is not only an Olympian, he’s an alchemist. In his career, he’s turned silver into gold and made bronze appear and disappear.
In 2004, Murofushi was dueling it out with fellow hammer thrower, Adrián Annus of Hungary. Murofushi, though, must have been a bit frustrated because for every mighty throw he made, Annus would throw one slightly further. And in the third of six throws in the finals of the hammer throw, Annus tossed the hammer 83.19 meters, which Murofushi simply could not match. His final throw of the event went 82.91 meters, well beyond every other competitor, except for Annus.
Thus, on August 22, 2004, the Hungarian took the gold in the hammer throw, and the Japanese the silver.
Only a few days after Murofushi stood listening to the Hungarian national anthem on the winner’s podium, he heard the news: Annus would be stripped of his gold medal. As it turned out, the urine samples Annus submitted to authorities before and after the hammer throw competition appeared to be from two different people, neither of them chemically linked to Annus. He was then asked to submit to a urine test after his return to Hungary, but Annus never showed up for the test. Annus was then ordered to return his gold medal so that it could be handed to Murofushi. It took a while, but several months later, under pressure of the IOC and the constant media attention, Annus relented and relinquished his Olympic title.
Murofushi’s silver turned to gold, and he is now the hammer throw champion of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In 2008, at the Beijing Olympics, Slovenian hammer thrower, Primož Kozmus, won almost every one of the six rounds. He threw 82.02 meters four of those five times, which must have been a bit frustrating, but that mark was still good enough to best all other finalists. Murofushi could not repeat his gold-medal winning distance of 82.91 meters in Athens, his best throw of 80.71 landing him in fifth and thus medal-less.
“It’s a real honor to get a medal in two straight Olympics,” Murofushi was quoted as saying in this Japan Times article. “But it is sad that this has come about because of doping. These were buddies I competed together with so it is incredibly disappointing. This (doping problem) is something the sports world really needs to tackle. It has to be thought of as a very serious problem.”
In the meanwhile, the Belarusians did not take their ignominy sitting down. They appealed the ruling, taking their case to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international body that settles disputes related to the Olympics. And in June of 2010, the court upheld the appeal from the Belarusians. Apparently, the court uncovered irregularities in the way the urine samples were handled, thus making it difficult to determine with conviction that doping had taken place. As a result, their silver and bronze medals were restored to them, and Murofushi dropped back down to fifth. He was not to receive a medal for his results in Beijing.
Murofushi’s remarks to the press showed he was willing to be diplomatic, emphasizing the positive. As he said in this Kyodo article, “doping is gaining more and more attention and this will result in stricter tests. I think this will be a plus for me at the London Olympics.”
Maybe it was. Murofushi, at the age of 37, took bronze in the hammer throw at the 2012 London Olympics.
It’s a cat and mouse game, the chemists on the side of the cheaters, and the chemists on the side of the authorities. And like hackers in cyberspace, the well-financed black hats in the shadows will often times be one step ahead of the rule-makers and the enforcers.
But doping detection technology improves, and what was once untraceable is now visible. A considerable number of urine samples were taken on athletes, samples that were considered clean in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London. With the revelations of state-sponsored doping in Russia, sports officials decided it was time to re-test samples from previous Olympics to see whether any medal winners had gotten away with cheating. For certain Olympians, the results have been traumatic…others euphoric.
According to this New York Times article, 75 athletes have been declared cheaters as traces of the anabolic steroids Turinabol and Stanozolo. As the article explained, the “findings have resulted in a top-to-bottom rewriting of Olympic history.”
The article cited the case of American high jumper, Chaunté Lowe, who finished sixth in her competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Eight years later, when the urine samples were re-tested, two Russians and a Ukrainian who had finished ahead of Lowe in 3rd, 4th and 5th place were disqualified for doping. As a result, Lowe, who originally finished 6th, was suddenly a medalist.
As she was quoted as saying in the NYTImes article “I kept doing the math,” said Ms. Lowe, who originally finished sixth. “Wait: 6, 5, 4. … Oh my gosh — they’re right. I started crying.”
Nearly a decade later, out of her prime, Lowe should be receiving her bronze medal at the age of 32, way too late to take advantage of the “benefits” that come with a medal. For one, she may have been viewed as an athlete worth continued investment, and could have gone onto greater glory at the 2012 London Games at the age of 28. Or she could have managed her way into sponsorships in the strong afterglow upon her return from Beijing. At the very least, she could have been celebrated among her peers or in her hometown in a fleeting ego-affirming way or, who knows, in a life-changing way.
With the advancement of technology an assumption, taking samples during a given Games will continue to be key. Dr. Olivier Rabin of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was quoted in the article as saying, “Science progresses every day. Just over the past probably five years, the sensitivity of the equipment progressed by a factor of about 100. You see what was impossible to see before.”
At the end of a wonderfully long interview in early 2015, the 1964 gold medalist of the 5,000 meter track competition mentioned it would be nice if Olympians who participated in the 1964 Tokyo Games could return to the Tokyo for the 2020 Games. He wasn’t suggesting that the government or anyone pay for their expenses. He was just wondering, wouldn’t it be nice if they could get assistance in finding accommodations or meals, for example.
That would be nice.
But it would be nicer, frankly, incredibly inspiring actually, to find a way to bring ALL 1964 Tokyo Olympians back in 2020. I have interviewed over 70 Olympians from the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics. I would estimate well over 90% of them, without prompting, described their time in Japan and at the Olympics as a wonderful and special experience. Many have said they would love to come back to Japan for a visit, particularly in 2020.
Imagine the stories that these Olympians would tell about 1964, about their memories of Japanese graciousness, resiliency, efficiency, and pride. There is little doubt that bringing the 1964 Olympians would result in a mutual lovefest. There could be opportunities for fundraisers dedicated to the 1964 Olympians, educational opportunities for Olympians to share their memories at schools or museums. And it would be another opportunity for embassies and chambers of commerce to embrace their heroes from 1964, reliving their stories, and reinforcing cultural impressions.
How many Olympians would that be? Allow me to make assumptions (and use admittedly somewhat cold and clinical language about life expectancy).
According to this article in The Daily Mail, British athletes were offered free admission to certain events at the 2012 London Olympics. It was estimated that around 125 Olympians were eligible (ie: still alive). Since there were 404 Brits representing their nation at the 1948 Games, one could say that 31% of that group of Olympians were alive in 2012.
But the gap between the 1964 Olympics and the 2020 Olympics is smaller – 56 years to be exact. In other words, assuming an average Olympian age of 25, most 1964 Olympians would be in their mid-70s to mid-80s. Because of that, we could assume that more than 31% of all 1964 Tokyo Olympians could be healthy and ambulatory and interested in coming to Japan in 2020. For the sake of generating an estimate, let’s say 40%. That would mean, of the 5,151 worldwide Olympians who participated in the 1964 Games, a little over 2,000 Olympians could be here in Japan in 2020!
But alas, this is still only a dream. If London organizing committee’s offer were expanded to all 4,100 Olympians from 1948, it’s possible they would have had to extend their offer to over 1,200 Olympians. I am not aware of such a program to bring all the 1948 Olympians back to the 2012 Games, but I imagine the organizing committee considered it, and I’m sure they knew the challenges. How do you contact all those Olympians? How would you finance it? At a time of peak capacity for the city, how do you accommodate so many people who deserve respectful attention and may have special needs due to their age?
At the 2012 London Olympics, the men’s judo team from Japan did not win a single gold medal. Of the seven weight classes, the Japanese took two silver and two bronze medals in arguably their worst showing since judo premiered at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the men’s judo team from Japan won two golds, and equally important, scored a medal in each of the 7 weight classes. The last time Japan medaled in all classes? 1964.
If this is the return to the glory years for Japan, just in time for the pressure to really build for Japanese athletes at the Tokyo2020 Games, then the men’s judo coach, Kosei Inoue, deserves top judo kudos. Inoue, gold medalist in 100kg weight class at the Sydney Games, was at those 2012 Games as an assistant coach, and he observed a judo team in chaos, according to this Gendai Business article (in Japanese).
Judoka were confused as the team of coaches were not specifically assigned to weight classes, so the judoka were uncertain whose coaching they should follow. Judoka were bullied excessively. Injured judoka were threatened with being dropped from the team. As a result of that and particularly the results in London, the coach was fired, and Inoue was asked to take over the team.
According to various sources, Inoue brought a winning mindset to the men’s judo team, focused the coaching on technique and playing to the strengths of each judoka, improving judoka’s strength, showing them to think outside of the Japan box, and emphasizing open communication between coaches and judoka.
Inoue ensured that his training sessions were not random and chaotic, but were focused on themes, like “technique”, or “finishing strong”. He also ensured that the judoka had their own coaches, and their own development plans. As gold medalist, Mashu Baker said in this Japan Times article, “After the London Olympics, Coach Inoue took over and I have had the pleasure of training under him. I don’t know what it was like in 2012, but I can say that under Coach Inoue we have had very personalized training which really looks at making the most of the skills of each individual athlete.”
According to a story on the television news program, Bankisha! (バンキシャ！), during the Rio Olympics, Inoue realized that while technique is important, foreigners did tend to be physically stronger, particularly in the heavier weight classes. Inoue ensured that his judoka were also improving their overall strength so that they would not be wrestled out of competitions.
Inoue also thought that the way non-Japanese fought in the judo dojo was important to understand. He thought it was important that his team know that the Russians developed their techniques from Sambo, a Russian wrestling sport, and that Brazilians developed their s from jiu-jitsu.
“The world is progressing fast. You’ve got to be aware of it,” Inoue said in this Japan Times article prior to the Rio Games. “Japan’s judo has been trying to do things its own way, as if Japan was the be-all and end-all of everything.”
Inoue may have gained this insight thanks to the Japan Olympic Committee, which selected Inoue to live in the UK, learn English, see how Europeans train in judo. Perhaps the JOC saw the coaching potential in Inoue, and believed the international experience would be of benefit. Inoue spent two years in the UK, including time in Edinburgh, Scotland with George Kerr, the president of the British Judo Association, and London, teaching at the famed Budokwai.
“I felt strong pride at what I’d done,” Inoue recalled in the Japan Times article. “But once I stepped out of my country, I didn’t understand the language and the environment. Their coaching style was totally different (in Europe). I felt like I had been taken down a peg. It was tough for me, but eventually, I began to think I was immature, that I didn’t know anything. The world is so big. So when people ask me what the best experience from being abroad was, I always tell them that I realized how ignorant I was.”
Inoue was shaping into the ideal coach for Japan’s national team. He knew what it was to be a champion in Sydney. He knew what it was like to be humbled in Athens, when he didn’t medal. He realized that the world offered a treasure trove of lessons that would
He had won gold in the 2015 Beijing World Championships, so YouTube Man was expected to compete for gold in Rio.
His first throw was strong 88.24 meters. But quite unexpectedly, that would be Julius Yego’s last throw. While it is still unclear what happened, Yego severely injured his ankle and was carted off in tears. Instead of attempting to throw over 90 meters, which he did in Beijing, the Kenyan had to watch from the stands as German Thomas Rohler managed a throw of 90.3 meters. Still, amazingly, his first throw was good enough for silver.
One could only imagine the pain of inactivity was greater than the pain in the ankle. Yego promised he would be back though. “It was that painful, but I thank God it not serious as I thought! I am going to be back stronger guys, love you all my fans wherever you are. Your tremendous support can never go unnoticed! You always cheer me up even in hard times! God bless you all.“
Yego was a favorite to win gold, which is amazing if you consider his story – a teenager from a farmer’s family who liked throwing a javelin so much he learned how to do it on the internet.
Way back in 2000, Thomas Friedman wrote the seminal book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He posited that globalization, particularly the pace of global commerce was occurring due to three factors: the democratization of technology, the democratization of finance and the democratization of information.
In reference to the last factor, the democratization of information, Friedman swooned at the thought of a future pioneered by the likes of Netscape, and its gateway browser to the internet, and the promise of high-speed broadband. “Never before in the history of the world have so many people been able to learn about so many other people’s lives, products and ideas,” wrote Friedman.
Only a few years after Friedman published that book, a school boy named Julius Yego of Kenya got hooked on the javelin throw watching his fellow primary school students send their wooden javelins flying, and was inspired by his brother who was pretty good at the discipline.
But he did not have the resources, nor were there any coaches at his school. In 2009, believing he had a chance to become a world-class thrower, he was frustrated that he could not get the help he needed. That’s when he turned to YouTube. “Nobody was there for me to see if I was doing well or not, so I went to the cybercafe,” he told CNN.
He would watch champions Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkidsen, examining their technique, and learning the right ways to train to thrown a two-and-a-half meter spear nearly the length of a football pitch.
In 2010, the self-taught Yego won bronze at his first international tournament at the African Championships in Nairobi, throwing the javelin 74.51 meters. Finally gaining visibility, Yego got some support, earning a scholarship to train in Finland for two weeks in the cold of winter of 2011. There he met leading javelin coach, Petteri Piironen, who saw potential in Yego, who was then reaching distances of around 78 meters. Yego visited Piironen again for three months in the run-up to the London Games, where he finished 12th.
While he continues to seek advice from Piironen, Yego continued to self coach, and also to progress, winning championships at The Commonwealth Games, African Championships in 2014, and the World Championships in 2015.
In a CNN interview, the javelin world champion recalled in 2011, when he found success at the All Africa Games, “people wanted to talk to his coach, to know what I did before the competitions, the championships. By then seriously I didn’t have a coach. I didn’t go with a coach. They asked me, ‘Who is your coach,’ and then I told them, ‘YouTube’.”
The Rio Olympics are over, the Olympic flame extinguished. But before the final lights of the closing ceremony dimmed, Japan sent the world an invitation. After the traditional handover of the Olympic flag from the mayor of Rio to the governor of Tokyo, Japan gave the world a sneak peek, showing why everyone should be excited about coming to Tokyo in 2020, July 24 to August 9. The closing ceremony is an opportunity for the host of the next Olympics to whet the appetite of Olympians, wannabes and sports fans alike. And Japan did not disappoint.
The show at the end of the Rio Olympics closing ceremony was hippy, cutie, techie, sexy, targeting the hippocampus of youth the world over fascinated with Japan, it’s machines, its pop music, it’s kulture of kawaii.
An introductory video took us on a jazzy tour of Tokyo, starting us off at the famed zebra crossing in Shibuya. We see the red Super Komachi bullet train which harkens back to the first bullet train introduced 9 days before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. We see the Sky Tree, Tokyo’s newer, bigger tower, although it can never replace the iconic Tokyo Tower, built just prior to the 64 Games. We see Pacman, Doraemon and Hello Kitty, and athletes lined up in profile, reminiscent of the famous athlete posters designed by Yusaku Kamekura for the 1964 Games.
And we see Japan Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in a car, in a hurry to get from Tokyo to Rio. He can’t get there in seconds….unless of course, he turns in to Super Mario, who ends up taking a plunge down an animated tunnel, landing on the other side of the world in Rio. Abe likely had to be heavily convinced, or plied with much alcohol, to appear in a Super Mario costume in the middle of Maracana Stadium. But he did, figuring that if the Queen of England didn’t mind being parodied for the London Olympics opening ceremonies, then maybe he shouldn’t either.
The video was the prelude to a display of art, dance and technology that was both precise and frenetic, ending in a Tokyo tableau, framed by, what else, that unmistakable silhouette of Mount Fuji. At show’s end, Prime Minister said, “See you in Tokyo!”
So, will we see you in Tokyo? We certainly hope so!
Today, the sheen off the 10-event, 2-day competition known as the decathlon has dimmed. It’s a generalist’s competition in a day and age when specialists reign, which commonly means that kids growing up do not find it on offer in their schools.
That was true for young Ashton Eaton, who competed in football, basketball, running, soccer and wrestling in Mountain View High School in Oregon. A swift 400-meter runner and long jumper, Eaton did not generate much interest from the top universities. He decided to go to the University of Oregon, and focus on the decathlon. From that point on at the University of Oregon, Eaton became a perennial favorite in the decathlon, becoming the first to ever win three consecutive NCAA decathlon championships in the US.
While Eaton failed to make the US team for the Beijing Olympics, he not only qualified in 2012, but won gold at the London Games. Now he is seeking in Rio to be the third person to be crowned “Greatest Athlete in the World” at two consecutive Olympics.
Despite the budget troubles, officials arranged to ensure a security force of 85,000, of which 23,000 are actually soldiers.
And yet, the anecdotes of crime are painfully ironic.
Sailing gold medalist, Fernando Echavarri and Liesl Tesch, an Austrailian paralympic sailor, were both mugged at gunpoint.
The minister of education of Portugal was robbed on his way back to his hotel while strolling near the rowing venue.
A New Zealand sports official was nearly shot by a stray bullet as he was standing in the equestrian media area.
The Olympics own security chief was attacked by four men with knives. The security chief, fortunately, had security, who had a gun, and was able to shoot one and chase the others away.
And while crime in Rio has gotten heightened attention due to the Olympics, Carioca have lived in an environment of insecurity and unease their entire lives, particularly those who live in the slums known as favela.
One person who has emerged from the drug and crime-infested favela called Cidade de Deus, made famous in the film, City of God, has put a dent in the perception that all is doom and gloom in the deeper recesses of the mega-city Rio de Janeiro.
On Monday, August 8, Rafaela Silva won gold in the women’s 57kg judo finals. Defeating Mongolia’s Dorjsurenglin Sumiya convincingly, Silva emerged as Brazil’s newest hero.
Silva grew up only 10 kilometers away from the artificially up-scale Olympic center, in the City of God favela, where as a dark-skinned woman, she faced racial abuse, got expelled from school, and grew up poor and hungry.
In an attempt to help Silva avoid bullies and drug gangs, while steering her down a better path, she was enrolled in free judo classes. For whatever reason, judo was the way out of the favela.
At the 2012 London Games, Silva was expected to do well, but was disqualified for an illegal move during a preliminary match, and never made it to the medal round. That made it easy for the racists to flame her with insults, calling her a monkey who needed to be in a cage.
Silva’s achievement is more than just an athletic achievement – she had to overcome far more than the average Olympian. As Juliana Barbassa, author of “Dancing with the Devil in the City of God” told the BBC, “It’s a situation of literal marginalization- they were pushed to the margins. To get out if it as Silva has done is really challenging. She literally had to fight her way out of the environment.”
The kayak was originally developed by Inuits, native to the northern Artic regions. Piecing together wood, bone and animal skins, the Inuit developed over centuries a vessel that was both quiet and swift, allowing Inuit hunters to stealthily come upon their prey.
Today, the kayak is made from modern materials like fiberglass, and the K-1 200-meter race has become, on water, the equivalent of the 100-meter sprint, on land.
Carrington has simply forgotten what it is like to lose, as she has been unbeaten for the past five years in this race, wining her fourth consecutive world title in the K1 200 meters last year in Italy. She is also the reigning Olympic champion, having won gold in the 200 meters at the London Olympic Games. Seeking gold in the 500-meters, Carrington could go on to become one of New Zealand’s most decorated Olympians in history.
Below at the 8:50 mark, you can see Carrington take gold at the 2012 London Games:
While De Jonge finished with a bronze medal in the 200 meters at the 2012 London Games, he is the World Champion for the past two years, the first man to do so in well over a decade. Below is video of de Jonge in speedy form: