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10 Cringe-worthy Moments in Olympic History


The Olympic Games are known for showcasing the world's best athletes on the biggest stage. But even the Summer and Winter Games aren't immune to those instances when something (or in some cases everything) doesn't go quite according to plan.

1. Eternal Olympic flame? Not so much.

One of the most visible images of the Olympics, summer or winter, is the presence of the eternal Olympic flame. With its origins dating all the way back to the ancient Olympics, the torch burning brightly in the primary host venue is symbolic, as is the torch relay that transports the flame from Greece to the host city. Unfortunately for one hard-luck torchbearer, the Olympic flame had a flame-out as it made its way to the site of this year’s Sochi Winter Games.

2. London Games’ flag faux pas

The North Korean women’s soccer team was making its way to the field for its opening match at the 2012 Summer Olympics against Colombia when the South Korean flag was shown on the main scoreboard in the stadium. Needless to say the North Korean team and officials were none too pleased and it took a heartfelt apology from the London Games organizing committee and some sensitive diplomacy to commence with the game.

3. A good pole vaulter never blames his pole…

...unless his name is Lazaro Borges. The Cuban experienced the definition of “equipment malfunction” during one of his qualifying attempts in the pole vault at the 2012 London Olympics.

4. This is not how we practiced it.

Great Britain’s four-man bobsled team had some issues, to say the least, on one of its runs during the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010. The good news is that none of the team members were injured after this run and were able to finish the competition, placing 17th overall.

5. BMX pile-up

What happens when eight men’s BMX racers get a little too close during a qualifying heat at the London Games? Just ask New Zealand’s Marc Willers, who won arguably the easiest run of his career after escaping this massive pile-up on the London VeloPark track.

6. All-around equipment fail

Something was amiss during the women’s gymnastics all-around competition during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Somehow, the vault was set too low, which impacted every competitor’s attempt to some degree, and even resulted in a few injuries. Talk about an all-around failure.

7. It ain’t over until it’s over

That’s the lesson that American Lindsey Jacobellis learned the hard way at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, during the inaugural snowboard cross event. Comfortably ahead of Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden in the finals, Jacobellis decided to attempt a showboat trick on the second-to-last jump, and promptly fell on the landing. That mistake was all that Frieden needed to pass Jacobellis at the finish line and to snatch the gold medal from her grasp.

8. Sasha Cohen stumbles in the free skate, but recovers

Leading the women’s figure skating competition at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics after the short program, the United States’ Sasha Cohen fell on her first jump (around the 1:32 mark) of her free skate and had to put her hands down on the ice to steady herself shortly after that (1:49). To her credit, Cohen did finish the rest of her program strong, and wound up with the silver medal.

9. “The Most Unexpected Gold Medal in History”

That’s how the IOC describes Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury’s win the 1000 meters at 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Trailing the four frontrunners, including the United State’s Apollo Anton Ohno, for most of the race, Bradbury was the beneficiary of a last-lap, chain-reaction collision that wiped out everyone but him, as he skated across the line just ahead of a flailing Ohno. Collisions start around 1:35 mark.

10. Hermann Maier experiences the agony of defeat followed by the thrill of victory

Competing in his first Olympics in Nagano in 1998, Austrian alpine skier Hermann Maier suffered a horrific-looking crash (around the 0:26 mark) during one of his early downhill runs. Fortunately, Maier escaped without serious injury and a few days later was not only back at it, but won gold in both the Super-G and Giant slalom.

—By Leslie Schichtel