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Eddie “Eagle”, the slowest skier and almost drowned swimmer: how to get to the Olympics unusual athletes

Philip Boyt. Getty Images

The Olympics is an event at which one of the strongest sportsmen of the world gather, who devoted their lives to the dream of getting a gold medal. However, almost at every Games there are stories about athletes who came to the competitions rather for the sake of the “Olympic spirit”: they perform poorly, but are remembered by the audience. The latest example was the Mexican skier Herman Madraso – he came last, but finished with the flag of his country, like a winner.

figured out how such athletes overcome the selection, and remembered several failed lovers of the public from different Olympics.

How are such athletes selected for the Games?

Previously, national teams could recruit any athletes in their teams: it was enough to show at least some results in local tournaments. Because of this at the Games appeared athletes who could not compete with anyone.

Over the years, dissatisfaction arose from the athletes who had trained for years, but could not get to the Olympics – unlike such “amateurs”. Therefore, in 1988, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted the “Rule of Eddie Orla”: applicants for OI should show themselves in international competitions. To qualify now it is necessary to get into the top 50 or 30% of the best results in the pre-Olympic season. However, not all international competitions gather the best athletes, which gives the chance to “underdogs”.

Another way to get to the Games is “wildcard”, special “invitations” from the IOC and international federations. Often, they are given to countries where some kind of sport is just beginning to develop. For example, African athletes qualify for this qualification in atypical winter sports.

Rights to many videos from the Olympics belong to the IOC, so you can only watch them on YouTube.

Memorable sportsmen

Michael “Eddie Orel” Edwards

Michael Edwards is the same person, because of which the IOC now admits to the Olympics only athletes who have achieved something on a professional level. Before the Games in 1988 in Calgary, the British team for several decades did not participate in ski jumping from a springboard. At the age of 25, the plasterer, Edwards, who before had only been skiing, decided to fix it.

The Briton did not look like an Olympic athlete: he wore glasses with a thick frame, weighed several kilograms more than he needed for his sport, less than two years, and at World Championships he showed worse results. But he was the best jumping in the UK – because he performed there alone.

In Calgary Edwards became a hero and was named “Eddie Orel” for his low flights. In all disciplines, he took the last places with a significant margin from competitors, but entered the history of the Olympic Games.

Erik Mussabbani

At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the IOC issued a “wildcard” to the swimmer Eric Musambani from Equatorial Guinea. Although the swimmer was difficult to name: the athlete learned to swim eight months before the Games and trained in a small pool at the hotel. His technique was taught to fishermen.

At 22, Mussampbani was in Australia and for the first time he saw a pool of 50 meters, which frightened him. The athlete was trained by representatives of delegations from other countries. The Olympics became for him not only the first international tournament, but also the first trip abroad.

In qualifying, Musambani had to compete with the Tajik and the Nigerian, but both were disqualified for false starts. The swimmer was left alone with the pool. The first half of the distance he swam for 41 seconds with a world record of 48 seconds for all 100 meters. But in the second part of the race, he practically began to sink, because he “was denied his legs”. Moussambani still completed the “hundred-meter” meeting after almost two minutes.

Robel Habte

Another swimmer is Ethiopian Robel Habte, who got to the Olympic Games in Rio. He made a hundred meter ahead of Mussambani, having overcome the distance in one minute and five seconds. But the athlete was first of all remembered for his “Olympic” sports form. Later it turned out that Robel Habte is the son of the president of the national federation of water sports.

Philip Boyt

Kenyat Philip Boyt is one of the main legends of the “white” Games. He visited three Olympiads, but the first one was most memorable – in Nagano in 1998. For a long time, the athlete ran, and saw snow only in 1995 in Finland. Boyte recalled: “It was difficult to transfer the weather, in Helsinki was -17, and I fell, putting on skis.”

After several training sessions, he was selected for the Games in Japan: there were legends that he competed for a place in the team with another Kenyan, who with him earned money for equipment. In Nagano, Boyt played in the race for 10 kilometers and came last. The Norwegian Bjorn Daly got the gold medal, but he still stood at the finish line for another 20 minutes to personally congratulate the Kenyan.

This Olympiad was the beginning of the friendship between the African and the Norwegian. The first child of Philip’s name is Daly Boyt. Former athletes still sometimes skate together.

Pita Taufatofua

Even at the Olympics in Rio, the famous “Tonganese in oil” participated in competitions in taekwondo. However, in 2017, he abruptly changed the sport and started skiing. According to the athlete, before the Games, he trained only 12 weeks, but on the last day of the qualifying competition he was able to get to South Korea.

The debut of the Tongan in the 15 km ski race ended with 114 seats out of 116. Worse were only the Colombians and the Mexicans with whom Taufatofua trained. After that, he did not lose heart and said that he had fulfilled two main tasks: he finished the race before the stadium was closed and did not crash into a tree.

At the Games in 2020, the athlete wants to try himself in swimming. So he will participate in three Olympics in three different sports.

Bonus: Adrian Solano

Venezuelan never got to the Olympics, but he became one of the main characters of the World Cup in the ski race in Finland. The media called Solano “the worst skier in history”: he showed a strange technique of riding, fell many times, broke a stick and eventually got off the track.

Before the tournament, the athlete wanted to practice in Sweden, but could not even reach the base-border guards in France did not believe that he was a skier, and deported him from the country.


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