Mike Rowbottom

As an Olympic champion, Greek long jumper Miltiadis Tentoglou, who yesterday won a third consecutive title at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, is rightly revered in his home country.

But according to sources close to the athlete, the recent spat he has had over a pair of spikes has raised his profile to a dramatic degree.

Tentoglou wore the shoes at the ORLEN Copernicus Cup in Toruń, Poland, the third of this season's World Athletics World Indoor Tour Gold meetings, where he jumped 8.40 metres.

It was the best mark in the world for 2023 - but then it was annulled as it was deemed he had worn a pair of spikes that did not accord with World Athletics regulations for his event.

On the day the news broke Tentóglou wrote a long post saying - among other things: "I don't care about an 8.40 jump. I can jump it whenever the fuck I want. It's just unfair. I'm disgusted."

Later that day, competing at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Lievin, France, he walked the walk after talking the talk, winning in - you’ve guessed it - 8.41m, which still stands atop the season’s world list.

Miltiadis Tentoglou's Tale of the Spikes has reportedly been a huge hit with the Greek public ©Getty Images
Miltiadis Tentoglou's Tale of the Spikes has reportedly been a huge hit with the Greek public ©Getty Images

And since then he has put the contentious spikes up for auction with proceeds to go to the victims of last month’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Whether we have heard the end of this point of dispute remains unclear. But what we can safely say, judging by the evidence, is that the Greeks love a good drama…

If the word from Greece is correct, Tentoglou would be far from the first, or the last, sporting protagonist to be remembered for what many might regard as an inconsequential detail rather than solid achievements.

I decided to test this theory by asking a longstanding colleague of mine what came to mind when I told them the name of a certain famous athlete of the past - Alan Pascoe.

Immediately he recalled the incident at the end of the 400 metres hurdles at the 1974 British Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, when Pascoe, exhausted but triumphant, ran back up the final straight and attempted to vault the hurdle in lane eight from the wrong side, failing, and landing on it so heavily that he bent the metal support.

Awkward. He then decided to try it again with the hurdle in the next lane. Another heavy fall. To general relief he sheepishly pushed the next hurdle in line over before jogging round the line of barriers, nursing his metaphorical wounds.

Pascoe had just won the 400m hurdles in a Games record of 48.83 seconds. Later that year he gold in the Rome European Championships and was a member of the winning 4x400m relay team. At the 1972 Munich Olympics he had helped Britain’s 4x400m relay team win silver. But when you say his name…

Eighteen years after Pascoe’s faux pas another notably successful British 4x400m relay runner, Derek Redmond, was involved in uniquely poignant circumstances at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In the form of his life, Redmond was flying down the back straight and looking certain of qualifying for the 400m final when the latest in a long line of injuries flared up and he stuttered to an agonised halt, clutching his hamstring.

He was marooned; he was distraught. But soon he was not alone as a heavy figure lumbered out from the stands to reach him, shooing away the attempts of officials to impede his progress. It was Redmond’s father, Jim. And with his help, Redmond walked the rest of his course to the line.

This moving scene has since taken its place as one of the iconic personal moments of the Olympics. Ask non-experts what they remember Derek Redmond for - that is, the man who broke the British record twice and was part of the 4x400m relay team that beat the United States to gold at the 1991 World Championships - and they will say something along the lines of: "Oh yeah. That’s the guy whose dad ran on the track to help him at the Olympics."

While we are blithering through track and field history, another similar incident springs to mind. For many who follow the sport the mention of the Munich 1972 Olympics, and a battered peaked cap, will immediately recall United States 800m runner Dave Wottle.

Wottle had long hair for much of his career, and had taken to packing it away in a cap when he raced - a cap which he retained even after a haircut as a good luck charm.

Derek Redmond is assisted on the track at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by his father, Jim, in a turn of events that has become a part of the Games history ©Getty Images
Derek Redmond is assisted on the track at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by his father, Jim, in a turn of events that has become a part of the Games history ©Getty Images

After winning gold in one of the great races, a stunned Wottle stood atop the podium during the US national anthem still wearing his old cap.

Those unfamiliar with the 22-year-old runner wondered if this was another podium protest of some kind. It wasn’t. He had simply forgotten to take it off, and was mortified when he realised, apologising fulsomely at the post-race press conference.

Wottle had equalled the world record of 1min 44.3sec at the US Olympic trials. He won gold after moving from last to first place in the final 300 metres, passing the Soviet Union’s flagging leader, Yevgeny Arzhanov, at the line to win by 0.03sec.

And yet he is most readily remembered for a battered old hat. People are funny like that.