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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Best Hoaxes in Sports History.

 Rosie Ruiz
Appearing to win the Boston Marathon in world record time, Rosie Ruiz would have become a legend. Unfortunately, after many runners claimed they hadn’t seen her during the race, it came to light that Ruiz had actually skipped more than half the race and jumped onto the course with half a mile to go.

Stella Walsh
This multi-Olympic Gold winning female track and field star dominated the track for years before entering the Hall Of Fame. Sadly, upon her shocking death in hold-up, the autopsy revealed that in fact Stella was a man with male genitalia. According to doctors she possessed both male and female chromosomes.

The Turk
In 1769, a Hungarian nobleman named Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a chess playing machine for the Austrian Queen Maria Theresia. Supposedly a completely mechanical device, the automaton consisted of a box filled with levers and gears supporting an animatronic figure dressed in a turban and known as the "Turk." Kempelen took the device on a tour of the finest courts in Europe and it defeated many of the finest chess players in the game. After years and years of touring and defeating some of the best chess players in the world, it was finally revealed that expert chess players, recruited during stops on each tour, were hiding within the gears.

David Robertson
After 14 holes in a qualifying tournament for the 1985 British Open, several players summoned a tournament official to discuss the play of David Robertson. Their complaint: Robertson wasn't placing his ball in the correct position on the green.  Robertson was actually racing to the green ahead of his playing partners, where he would pretend to mark his ball. In reality, however, he was simply picking it up, then placing the marker on his putter -- carrying it across the green to a more favorable lie closer to the hole. Robertson was fined the equivalent of more than $30,000 and banned from the pro tour for 30 years. About seven years later, he reapplied for amateur status and played in several events near Lothian, Great Britain.

Fred Lorz
In the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, before Rosie Ruiz was even born, New York native Fred Lorz cruised to the marathon finish line in three hours, 13 minutes -- far ahead of his nearest competitor. Lorz had already broken the tape, posed for photographs with then-first daughter Alice Roosevelt and made ready to receive his gold medal when organizers figured out how he'd established such a lead: by flagging down a passing car and riding 11 miles as a passenger. Lorz claimed his own short cut was a practical joke but still received a lifetime ban from the sport, though track officials later allowed him to run again. He celebrated his reinstatement by winning the Boston Marathon the next year.

Ali Dia
Like American pro sports teams, soccer clubs in the United Kingdom are constantly looking out for unknown talent. So Southampton manager Graeme Souness was grateful when he received a call in 1996 from a man who identified himself as World Footballer of the Year George Weah and extolled the skills of his "cousin," a 30-year-old nobody named Ali Dia who, the caller said, had played in 13 international tournaments for Senegal.
Impressed by the recommendation, Souness signed Dia, sight unseen, to a 30-day contract and put him on the bench for Southampton's next game, against Leeds. What Souness didn't know was that the man he'd spoken to on the phone wasn't actually George Weah -- it was Dia's agent. Unfortunately for Souness, he didn't learn this fact until after he'd sent Dia into the game as a substitute, where the striker played 14 minutes of embarrassingly bad soccer before Souness figured out the con.

Dora Ratjen
Unlike Stella Walsh, who possessed both male and female chromosomes, there was nothing at all feminine about Dora Ratjen, who competed in the high jump at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Least of all "her" real name. Dora was, in fact, actually Hermann Ratjen, a detail not discovered until after the Second World War, when he was found working as a waiter -- not a waitress -- in Hamburg.
Ratjen claimed that leaders of the Hitler Youth had coerced him into binding his genitals and competing as a woman. But in the end, the joke was on them and their theories of Aryan superiority: Ratjen finished fourth, behind three actual women.

Sidd Finch
He was an unknown rookie pitcher, invited to camp by the Mets, who could throw a 168 mph fastball. He had pinpoint control. According to an article by George Plimpton in the April 1 edition of Sports Illustrated, Sidd Finch was one of the strangest ballplayers ever -- an orphan raised by anthropologists who grew up into a yogi, a virtuoso on the French Horn and a Harvard alum. Players said it wasn't humanly possible to hit his pitches.
That's because they didn't exist. Finch was an elaborate joke cooked up by Plimpton, author of the sports classic "Paper Lion." The magazine received more than 2,000 letters seeking additional information before admitting on April 15 that the story was a joke.

Carl Power
Shortly after Manchester United published its team photograph in 2001, fans began asking for the identity of the extra player appearing with the otherwise well-known lineup. Included in the picture was a slightly overweight man, dressed in uniform, whom no one had ever seen play.
After the BBC launched a nationwide manhunt, the non-player was identified as Carl Power, a 36-year-old Manchester resident and practical joker nicknamed "Fat Neck." Power had managed to get into the picture by waiting in the stadium for three hours until the team arrived, then wandering over. None of the real players noticed him joining them. It wasn't Power's final exploit. Shortly thereafter, he dressed in a batsman's helmet during one of the English cricket team's matches and almost made it into the game. He played a few serves with a friend on Centre Court at Wimbledon before a Tim Henman match. And he even dressed in a driver's uniform and leapt onto the winner's podium ahead of Michael Schumacher during a Formula One awards ceremony.

Sylvester Carmouche
A heavy ground fog had settled across Louisiana's Delta Downs racetrack in December 1990 when jockey Sylvester Carmouche pulled off a surprise upset by finishing first on the 23-1 long shot Landing Officer. But even more surprising was the magnitude of his victory. Landing Officer won by 24 lengths, finishing just 1.2 seconds shy of the track record for a one-mile course.
It wasn't that Landing Officer had discovered an inner reserve of strength somewhere in the backstretch. As it turned out, the jockey had steered the horse out of the race while lost from view in the fog, cut across the course and rejoined the field again as the other horses came around. Other jockeys admitted they'd never even seen him. Carmouche received a 10-year ban but was reinstated after serving eight.

Donald Crowhurst
The 36-year-old sailor set out from England in a plywood trimaran as a competitor in the 1968 Golden Globe round-the-world yacht race. Though he had little prior experience and his boat, the Teignmouth Electron, was frighteningly under-built, Crowhurst managed to convince a wealthy backer, race judges and the media that he was a serious contender.
He wasn't. After several weeks fighting leaks and making slow progress, Crowhurst began sending bogus radio reports indicating amazing success. At one point, he claimed to have covered 391 kilometers in a single day -- a world record, at the time. In reality, however, Crowhurst had sailed off the route to the coast of South America, where he decided to lie low and wait for the other competitors to come back around. He spent 111 days in radio silence, then called in and reported another bogus position behind the race leader. But when a competitor sank trying to "beat" the Teignmouth Electron for second place, Crowhurst was overcome with guilt. He confessed all in his logbook, then stepped over the side and vanished into the Atlantic.

When competition ended in the pair skating event at the Salt Lake City Olympics, fans in the audience and around the world thought they knew who'd won. Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier circled the ice triumphantly, while fans chanted "Six! Six!" demanding a perfect score for the team's performance. Those fans were silenced, however, by scores that handed the gold medal to the Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, even though Sikharulidze had failed to appropriately land one of his double-axels.
The results spurred immediate accusations of cheating -- which proved justified when French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said she had been pressured to vote for the Russian skaters by the French skating federation. After four days of argument, the IOC awarded Sale and Pelletier an unprecedented extra gold medal. Later that summer, Italian authorities arrested a Russian mobster named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov after the FBI accused him of masterminding the fix. An Italian judge, though, overturned a previous order to extradite him to the United States.

Boris Onischenko
An Army officer from the Ukraine, Boris Onischenko was a respected pentathlete with a silver medal from the 1972 Munich Games. But in the 1976 Olympics, competitors noticed something strange about his fencing style. Jim Fox, of the British team, found that his Soviet opponent was scoring points even when his épée missed Fox by a considerable distance.
Fox and the other Brits convinced Olympic officials to examine Onischenko's sword, which turned out to be wired with a clever system that allowed him to score points at will by means of a hidden trigger. The Soviet was disqualified and the rules changed to ban grips that could conceal wires or switches.

Danny Almonte
The left-handed pitcher became a media darling and an overnight sensation when he pitched a perfect game on national television while leading his team of Bronx youths to a third-place finish at the Little League World Series in the summer of 2001.
But the star of the Baby Bronx Bombers wasn't quite as preternaturally talented as he seemed. Though Almonte could, in fact, throw a 70 mph fastball -- an impressive feat for a 12-year-old -- officials in the Dominican Republic later confirmed that records showed Almonte was actually 14. The age advantage gave him a considerable edge over his mostly pre-pubescent competition. Almonte's father and coach, who forged the boy's registration form, was banned from Little League for life.

Spanish Paralympians
It was a heartwarming story -- a group of mentally challenged basketball players pulling together and producing an outstanding performance that won the 2000 Paralympic gold medal for Spain, beating the Russian team 87-63 in the finals of the intellectual disability tournament. The only problem with the tale: It was fiction.
Shortly after the team returned to Spain, Carlos Ribagorda, a player on the team and a working journalist, wrote an article in the Spanish magazine Capital, in which he said that 10 of 12 players on the team suffered from no intellectual disability whatsoever. 

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I learned a lot! and that man twho competed as a woman... LOL