Fact of the Day
Haiti's Samyr Laine, 11th in the triple jump at London 2012, is a close personal friend of Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, having shared a room with him while both students at Harvard University. The American-born Laine, whose parents are Haitian, was the 14th member to join Facebook, the social networking site which now has more than a billion users. "He was always incredibly hard working and serious, both as a student and as an athlete," wrote Zuckerberg on Facebook during London 2012. "He's also just a really nice guy."
Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubník, who until 2010 shared the record of being the highest points scorer in the history of Olympic ice hockey, also represented his country at football. As an ice hockey player, Bubník scored 39 points in four Olympics, winning a bronze medal at Innsbruck 1964. Four years earlier, as a footballer, he had scored one of Czechoslovakia's goals in their 2-0 defeat of host nation France to claim third place in the 1960 European Nations Cup in Marseille.
The first Winter Paralympic Games were held in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden and were originally called the 1st Winter Olympic Games for the Disabled. They were the first Paralympics in which multiple categories of athletes with disabilities could compete and featured competitions in Alpine and Nordic skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes, and a demonstration event in ice sledge racing. A total of 198 athletes from 16 countries took part with West Germany topping the medals table with a total of 28 medals, ten of them gold.
South Africa were banned from competing in the Olympics on the eve of Tokyo 1964 due to its apartheid policies but were allowed to continue taking part in the Paralympics until after the 1976 Games in Toronto. Similarly, Rhodesia were banned from the 1972 Olympics in Munich, in response to African countries' protests against its white regime, but were allowed to take part in the Paralympics in Heidelberg. South Africa returned to the Olympics and Paralympics at Barcelona in 1992 while Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe in 1980.
A Unified Team of Germany competed in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Winter and Summer Olympic Games as a united team of athletes from the West and East. In 1956 the team also included athletes from a third Olympic body, the Saarland Olympic Committee, which had sent a separate team in 1952, but in 1956 was in the process of joining the German National Olympic Committee. This process was completed in February 1957 after the admission of Saarland into West Germany.
Margaret Abbott was the first American woman to win an Olympic event, claiming gold in golf at Paris 1900. But the Games were so poorly organised many competitors, including Abbott, did not realise they were taking part in the Olympics. Historical research did not establish golf was on the Olympic programme until after her death in 1955, so she never knew it. Her mother, Mary, a novelist, also competed in the event, finishing joint seventh, making it the first - and still only - Olympic event in which mother and daughter competed together.
Shooter Jasna Šekarić is the only athlete to compete under four different flags at the Olympics. She made her debut for Yugoslavia at Seoul in 1988, winning a gold medal in the 10 metre air rifle. She competed under the Olympic flag at Barcelona four years later, winning silver. At Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 she represented Serbia and Montenegro, taking silver twice. Then, at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, she competed for Serbia following Montenegro's independence.
Ice hockey made its Olympic debut in 1920 at the Summer Games in Antwerp. The decision to include it was made three months before the start of the Games after five European nations committed to participate and officials at Antwerp's Palais de Glace d'Anvers refused to allow it to be used for figure skating unless hockey was included. The winners were Canada, represented by the Allan Cup-winning Winnipeg Falcons.
Four Hungarian Olympic fencing gold medallists died in German concentration camps during World War Two. They were Oszkar Gerde, a winner in London 1908 and Stockholm 1912; Janos Garay, a gold medallist at Amsterdam 1928; Endre Kabos, a champion at Los Angeles 1932 and winner of two more golds at Berlin 1936; and Attila Petschauer, a gold medallist in 1928 and 1932. Petschauer's story was later dramatised in the 1999 film Sunshine, starring Ralph Fiennes.
Britain's Ken Richmond, who won an Olympic bronze medal in heavyweight wrestling at Helsinki 1952, gained subsequent exposure as the well-muscled leviathan who struck the enormous gong in the opening titles which preceded films from the J.Arthur Rank Studios. Before he died in 2006, Richmond revealed to friends a closely guarded secret that the gong was a papier-mâché stage prop.
In 1924 Bill Havens was chosen to represent the United States in rowing at the Olympics in rowing but, as his wife was pregnant, he opted to stay with her rather than compete. At Helsinki in 1952, that child, Frank, won the gold medal in the 10,000 metres C-1 canoe event. Havens proudly presented the gold medal to his father, thanking him for waiting around until he was born.
Italian cyclist Giovanni Pettenella, winner of the individual sprint at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, so impressed Shigesato Itoi, the Japanese creator of the 1995 video game Mother 2 that he used his name as an obscure character who lost his contact lens in the desert. By finding and returning it to him in the second floor of the bakery in the next town you reach, he will give you a pair of dirty socks in return, which can be used in battle.
Benjamin Spock won an Olympic gold medal in rowing at Paris 1924 as part of the Yale eight which represented the United States after being invited to be part of the team by James Rockfeller. In 1946 and, by then, a qualified pediatrician, he found even greater fame with the publication of the book Baby and Child Care, which has been translated into 39 languages and is believed to be the second biggest selling book in history after the Bible.
Cornishman V was a horse who won Olympic gold medals in eventing at Mexico City in 1968 and Munich 1972, when Britain came first in the team event on both occasions. Cornishman was ridden in Mexico City by Richard Meade and in Munich by Mary Gordon-Watson. He was retired from eventing in 1973 but then begun a second career as a film star. In 1974 Cornishman appeared in the film based on a Dick Francis thriller Dead Cert, and in 1978 he was in International Velvet, starring Tatum O'Neal, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Hopkins and Nanette Newman
American Jennison Heaton won the first Olympic skeleton gold medal at St Moritz in 1928, beating his brother John, who took the silver. Jennison then won a silver in the five man bobsleigh in the same Games. John, meanwhile, won a bronze medal in the two man bob at Lake Placid in 1932 before claiming another silver in the skeleton, when the Olympics returned to St Moritz in 1948, at the age of 39. The Heaton Gold Cup remains one of the classic skeleton events of the St. Moritz "Cresta" season.