Lame-ducks, also-rans, epic failures – as we Brits know it’s all about the taking part. Hapless and hopeless, they run and jump and sled and swim without any chance of winning but still, they try, accepting defeat as gracefully as possible.
Yes, not everyone can be an Olympic athlete but that doesn’t stop some people trying. But just who are the all-time great Olympic failures who captured our hearts?
Here’s Our Magnificent 7 Olympic Failures
Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards
Eddie soared to glorious failure in the 1988 Winter Olympics as Britain’s only ski-jumper. There’s no doubt that Eddie was a good skier, narrowly missing selection for the British downhill skiing team in the 1984 Games and he could ski-jump.
At the time of the 1988 Winter Olympics, Eddie held the British ski-jumping record. He was ninth in the world for amateur speed skiing reaching speeds of over 100 miles an hour, and the stunt skiing world record holder after jumping 10 cars and 6 buses.
But ski-jumping requires snow and although he trained at Lake Placid it just wasn’t enough to make him a serious contender. Eddie came last in the event, causing the Olympic Committee to reconsider the entry requirements.
Even so, he did set a new British record of 73.5m for one of his Calgary jumps. It’s a long way behind the World Record 253.5m jump made by Stefan Kraft in 2017.
Nevertheless, even though he did not win any medals, Eddie, the passionate underdog, certainly won the hearts of the world. Everyone loves someone who gives it their all, especially when all of the odds are against them. Many people argued that this displayed the true spirit of the Olympics.
Eddie’s story inspired many people. In fact, how many people can remember the names of the medal winners at Calgary? But, there is certainly a lot more people know the name of Eddie the Eagle.
Eddie may be our top pick for our list of Olympic failures but, hey, he is a winner in many other ways. He has even had a hit movie made about him, starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Edgerton and not many people can say that! – Read the review here.
Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani
Now, it’s fair to say that Australia went all out to put on a show when they hosted the Olympics in Sydney on the year of the Millenium. The Aussies are staunch sports fans and they had their own superstar – great hope, in Ian ‘The Torpedo’ Thorpe. But do you know what, the Australian’s love nothing more than a good old battler.
Enter Eric Moussambani Malonga, the 100m swimming representative of Equatorial Guinea. Now, he didn’t exactly set the swimming pool on fire at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, but he did light up the hearts of the public when he competed in the 100m Men’s Freestyle.
Nicknamed ‘The Eel’ by the Australian press, Eric swam his heat in a very un-eel-like 1minute 52.72seconds, twice as long as the fastest competitors in the race and a slower time than that of the 200metre record. In fact, it is the slowest time in history.
At first, he created mirth with his choppy action, head held up water polo style, but he soon won the adoration of the Olympic crowds. Despite his poor performance, he did manage a new personal best and a national record for his home country.
Eric gained his place in the race without the need to meet minimum quality standards in a ‘Wild Card’ draw intended to encourage developing countries to participate. Eric ‘The Eel’ returned home to Equatorial Guinea to a hero’s welcome and dancing in the streets.
Now, he did come last, but he gained more respect and admiration than most of the medal winners. Including, Ian Thorpe.
The Jamaican Bobsleigh Team
This is a story that most of us will be familiar with. Because the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team at Calgary 88, inspired the hit movie ‘Cool Runnings’. Not surprisingly, this was the first time that a Jamaican team had entered the Winter Olympics.
Oddly, it was Americans, George B. Fitch, and William Maloney, who were responsible for the founding of the team. During a visit to Jamaica, they witnessed a pushcart derby and, realising that pushcart racing was very similar to bobsledding, a legend was born.
The four-man team and their ‘ultimate underdog’ status soon made them a firm favorite with the fans. Unfortunately, they didn’t officially finish after losing control of the sled and crashing during one of their four runs.
They did however manage to walk to the finish line unscathed; deafened by the cheers and tumultuous applause of the adoring crowd. This may have been their debut but the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team has gone onto play a part in no less than five more Winter Olympics.
Luvsanlkhundeg ‘Luvvy’ Otgonbayar
Back in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, Mongolian women’s marathon runner, Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar, struggled almost as much with her running as race commentators did with her name. Poor ‘Luvvy’, as she became simply known, eventually crossed the line in a losing time of 3hours 48.42seconds. She finished 56th in the last position and over 30 minutes behind the next to last finisher.
Whilst she didn’t win any medals, she did win the admiration of the crowd who stayed around waiting for her to finish and then brought her home to deafening applause and chants of “Go, Luvvy, go”.
But it seems the crowds inspired her as much as she did them. She kept on running and represented her country in four World Championships and another Olympic games held in London 2012. To be fair to her, she did get better and in the 2011 World Championships, she clocked an impressive 2.45:58. Knocking over an hour of her time in Athens.
Mala Sakonninhom from Laos came last in the women’s 100m when she clocked an Olympic worst time of 15.12 seconds in Seoul in 1988. The time, over four and a half seconds slower than Florence Griffith Joyner’s gold medal-winning run in the final, could probably have been beaten on most high school running tracks.
Even so, Mala finished the race in good spirits, smiling and telling reporters that she was: “Pleased to be taking part and proud to run for her country”.
Now that is the true Olympic spirit and the epitome of a lovable loser.
At only sixteen, young Fumilay was the standard-bearer for her country at the 2004 Summer Olympics and also competed in the 20K women’s walking race. The young woman from São Tomé, a Portuguese speaking island in the Gulf of Guinea and the second smallest country in Africa, did her best in the 20km walk. But maybe a tiny volcanic island isn’t the best place to train.
Poor Fumilay finished the Women’s walk with one of the worst times on record – 2 hours 4 minutes and 54 seconds. She was almost 36 minutes behind the winner and about 15 minutes behind the next-to-last finisher.
Not even this crushing defeat though could dampen Mala’s spirit; the following year she walked in World Youth Championships coming in 24th. Now you could say that she is an Olympic failure, but hey she’s a winner in our eyes.
With long brown hair, a winner’s smile, and a beautiful white mount, Margit Appelt certainly looked the epitome of the equestrian filly at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Unfortunately, her performance didn’t live up to her polished image and Austrian, Margit, came 68th in the individual equestrian event.
Eventually, Margit and her horse, Ice on Fire, finished with 271.80 penalty points after making mistake after mistake; failing and refusing jumps and generally making a horse’s ear of the whole competition.
She managed to finish an incredible 230.2 points behind controversial British winner, Leslie Law (with just 41.60 penalty points). Today Margit is still trying, and at 37 still competes.
Everyone loves a winner, but it seems that they love a loser just as much and perhaps it’s the losers, those sportsmen and women who despite coming to the last pick themselves up and try again, that embody the true spirit of the Olympics.
Every single one of our magnificent seven Olympic failures would have impressed Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin who famously claimed:
“L’important n’est pas de gagner, mais de participer (The important thing is not to win, but to take part).”
Yes, they may have failed by most sporting standards, but for a while, they lived the Olympic dream – and how many of us can say that?
So there you have it, our top Seven Olympic Failures. Yes, they may have come last, but they sure are lovable losers. But, what if you could predict who was going to be last?
Well, then you would head to Paddy Power, who specialise in obscure bets – who knows you could start winning from Losers.