Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Straight Out Of Pages

From accidental champions to rookie athletes - a book on incredible Olympic stories

The Olympics happen to be a storehouse of incredible stories and Argentine author Luciano Wernicke has collected them all in his latest book.

Luciano Wernicke and his latest book - The Most Incredible Olympic Stories

Argentine sports journalist turned author Luciano Wernicke and his latest book - The Most Incredible Olympic Stories


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 11 Aug 2021 4:47 AM GMT

Coming once in every four years, the Olympic Games, outside of being a space for the ultimate crossover in the sports multiverse, packed with glitz and athletic excellence, is also the treasure trove of stories lying in wait to be unearthed. Argentine sports journalist turned author Luciano Wernicke goes down history lane and fishes out stunning stories from the very first Games in 1896 Athens to 2016 Rio Olympics in his latest book The Most Incredible Olympic Stories.

Here are a few snippets from the book which has over 500 such incredible Olympic stories in it.

Paris 1900 - Champion by accident

Denmark's Edgar Aaybe was not a great athlete. In fact, he did not travel to Paris as an athlete, but as a journalist to cover the Olympics for the newspaper Politiken. On 16 July, while circling aimlessly through the Boulogne forest, Aaybe met his countrymen Charles Winckler, who had not qualified for the final disc and bullet throws, and Eugen Schmidt. Noting that the reporter was big and seemed to be quite strong, Schmidt and Winckler invited him to join the 'mixed' tug-of-war team along with three other Swede boys, as they needed an extra competitor to face the tough contenders of the Paris Racing Club. The journalist accepted the invitation and joined the Scandinavian group. His contribution was essential to win the fight against the locals. As the duel was the only one in that specialty—only two teams had signed up for that event—Aaybe proudly returned home with his unexpected Olympic champion title.

Paris 1900 - Golden and Ignored

The town of Asnières-sur-Seine also hosted the rowing events, which had its debut at the Games since previously it had to be suspended due to bad weather in Athens. On 25 August, when the preliminaries of couples with helmsman were made, the Dutch François Antoine Brandt and Roelof Klein were not satisfied with their performance. Although they had qualified for the final, they had been widely surpassed by the boat of the Société Nautique de la Marne, who carried a child as helmsman. Similarly, the boats of two other French rowing institutions—Rowing Club Castillon and Cercle Nautique de Reims— carried one boy each as a guide. They, on the other hand, had been assisted by their compatriot Hermanus Gerardus Brockmann, who was a twenty-eight-year-old boy, much larger and heavier.

That night, Brandt and Klein agreed that, in order to have a chance to win the competition, they had to replace their partner with a young boy who lost kilos to his boat, named Minerva Amsterdam. The next day, the Dutch searched between the assistants until they found a French boy who had reached the shore as a spectator with his parents, whom they invited to join their team. The boy, permitted by his dad and also by the judges of the event, boarded the boat and quickly understood what his task would be. Perfectly complemented and much lighter, the Dutch team improved a great performance and became champion for a hair over the representatives of the Société Nautique de la Marne. After hugging and being congratulated by Brockmann, who had followed the race from a pier, Brandt and Klein wanted to invite their young helper to drink something refreshing, but they noticed that the boy had disappeared moments after setting his feet on solid ground, just like his family. For the official IOC registration, the victory corresponded to a 'mixed team', because the crew of the winning boat were two Dutchmen and one French. The only thing that was not inscribed in the Olympic record was the name of the rookie athlete. Although he could never prove his identity or his precise age—it is speculated that he was seven or eight years old. Historians agree that the unknown boy is the youngest champion in the history of the Games.

Antwerp 1920 - The Big Surprise

1920 Antwerp Olympics was held amidst the horrors of war and flu (Source: AP)

Possibly the most amazing athletic victory of these Games was provided by the American Allen Woodring, a student at the University of Syracuse, in the 200 meters. Woodring, who had not qualified to represent his country in the preliminaries back in the United States, arrived in Antwerp, thanks to the injury of the fourth selected, George Massengale. The boy managed to pass the first two qualifiers on 19 August, and the next morning, won the second semi-final, even though his worn shoes opened in the final sprint. Woodring did not have a spare pair, so he had to borrow one.

However, the footwear he got was not suitable because the nails were too long, almost double that of his. Anxious of falling on the track, the young man tried to file the grips, but did not have enough time or the necessary tools. Lost in every quarter, Woodring went in search of the miracle and the miracle arrived: a strong and passing downpour drenched the Olympic stadium and softened its ash track too much. For that unexpected surface, the longer nails offered the perfect grip. Woodring, the student who had not qualified for the Games, the great American surprise, had his best race in life and returned home proudly with a gold medal around his neck.

[Luciano Wernicke's book The Most Incredible Olympic Stories has been published by Niyogi Books in India and is available for purchase.]

Next Story