DFL

Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Results for Sunday, August 24

Athletics: No doubt 30-year-old Atsushi Sato of Japan will be the subject of many an attempted human interest story, now that he's finished dead last in the men's marathon. He finished 76th with a time of 2:41:08, which was 34:36 behind the gold medallist. Hardly A Baser Wasiqi territory, but that won't stop the media. There were 19 DNFs and three DNSes.

Basketball: Angola was 0–5 in the preliminaries of men's basketball and, with fewer points for and more points against than Iran, finished 12th.

Handball: In men's handball, China was 0–5 and finished 12th.

Rhythmic Gymnastics: In the qualification round for the group all-around event, the team from Brazil finished 12th with a score of 29.125; it would have taken 31.45 or better to qualify.

Volleyball: In men's volleyball, both Egypt and Japan were 0–5, but Egypt won no sets, whereas Japan won four. Therefore, the DFL goes to Egypt.

Water Polo: In men's water polo, China lost its classification match with Canada on Friday to finish 12th.

Final standings: China finishes with 14 DFLs; Egypt moves into sixth place, Japan moves into ninth, and Angola and Brazil, at the last moment, jump into the top 20. Stand by for an analysis of the final standings.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Early Results for Sunday, August 17

A lot of results to report on today, so I'll start with a short post on the morning and early afternoon events, and do the rest of the day later.

Athletics: The women's marathon -- a high-profile event insofar as media coverage of last places is concerned -- ran this morning. There was one DNS and 12 DNFs, but the last person to actually finish was Ukraine's Oxana Skylarenko, who finished 69th. The 27-year-old runner's time of 2:55:39 was 28:55 behind the gold medallist, and 1:54 behind she who came 68th.

Shooting: Siddique Umer of Pakistan, 26, finished 49th in the men's 50-metre rifle, three positions; his score of 1,116 fell short of the 1,170 or so needed to qualify for the final, but not by all that much, actually. There was one DNS.

Swimming: In heat two of the women's 50-metre freestyle, 21-year-old Mariama Souley Bana of Niger put in a time of 40.83 seconds, the only plus-40-second time in the event (though there were plenty in the 30s). The gold medallist's time in the finals was 24.06 seconds. There were two DNSes in the heats. In heat one of the men's 1,500-metre freestyle, Turkish swimmer Ediz Yildirimer, who's only 14 bloody years old, had the only 16-minute-plus time in the event, 16:28.79; the gold medallist's final time was nearly 108 seconds faster, at 14:40.84. A reminder: 1,500 metres equals 30 pool lengths. There were two DNSes. Ukraine had the slowest heat time in the women's 4×100-metre medley relay: their time of 4:08.62 was about 16 seconds behind the gold medallists' final time of 3:52.69. In the men's 4×100 medley relay, the slowest heat time was put in by the team from Belarus; at 3:39.39, it was 10 seconds behind the gold medallists' final time.

Standings to date: This will change in a few hours, once I tabulate the results for the rest of the day, but in the meantime, Turkey and Belarus have added their second last-place finishes, and Ukraine jumps onto the board with two DFLs. At the moment, they're in 15th, 17th and 18th place, respectively.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

China Embraces John Stephen Akhwari



John Stephen Akhwari's last-place finish in the marathon in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics is almost certainly considered the greatest last-place finish of all time, and Akhwari's response as to why he forced his injured body across the finish line, long after the rest of the field had finished, is almost certainly the epitome of the DFL spirit: "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race." (That quote has been presented in several versions, paraphrased and retranslated, but you get the gist.)

Forty years later, the organizers of the Beijing Games have brought Akhwari, now in his seventies, back into the spotlight. (Let's take it as given that he has not been replaced with a more photogenic, computer-generated nine-year-old Han Chinese girl.) Akhwari visited China over the New Year: he toured the Bird's Nest construction site, visited an elementary school and was even the subject of a music video:



And in April he ran in the torch relay when it passed through his home country of Tanzania. China's certainly earned its share of criticism for these Games, but embracing Akhwari -- even insofar as it means using him and what he represents propagandistically -- is a class act.

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Monday, August 30, 2004

Media Coverage of Last-Place Marathoner

I was wrong: the nonsense regarding the loony priest did not prevent the news media from writing about the marathon's last-place finisher, Marcel Matanin. Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg still thinks it makes a great human-interest story, though the tale of the 30-year-old Slovak who took up the marathon because it was in Greece is somewhat more mundane than past Olympic DFLs. Thanks to Debra for the catch.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Results for the Men's Marathon

Now that the race is over, I don't think the last-place finisher is likely to make any headlines. For one thing, most of the media attention is going to be focused on the bizarre attack on Vanderlei Lima by a disturbed former priest from Ireland who wanted to prepare for the Second Coming. For another, the results were closer than you might expect, with the last-place finish less than 40 minutes behind the first. Marcel Matanin of Slovakia finished 81st with a time of 2:50:26; the winner's time was 2:10:55. This was a difficult race, with lots of elevation changes and in hot and humid conditions. As was the case with the women's marathon, there were a lot of DNFs -- 20 in all. But as one of the CBC commentators pointed out during their live coverage, "99.9 per cent of the population could not keep pace for one kilometre." Finishing is an achievement. Being able to complete even a portion of this race under these conditions is an achievement.

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Men's Marathon Now Under Way

The men's marathon just got under way. It's a gruelling course, but at 30°C it's a little bit cooler than the 37-degree temperatures the women had to face (there was a very good reason for 16 DNFs in that event).

The news media has historically covered the last-place finisher of the Olympic marathon, from the great John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania in 1968 ("My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race.") to Pyambu Tuul in 1992 and A Baser Wasiqi in 1996. It's like the first baby of the new year: the media gravitates to it because they love a good human-interest story.

It'll be a few hours before the marathon is finished, but I'd like to put out a general request to my readers: If you see a news report about the marathon's last-place finisher, please let me know. I'll get it up here as quick as I can. I'm very interested to see how the media will handle it this time. (I'll be looking at the results, myself, but will be keeping an eye out for this as well.) Thanks very much.

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Pyambu Tuul in 1992

In 1992 I remember reading a story about the last-place finisher in the Barcelona marathon that completely blew me away. I'm indebted to Robert Pera for finding an online account of the story of Mongolian runner Pyambu Tuul. It's quite possibly the most extraordinary last-place story I've ever heard.
At a press conference Tuul answered quietly and calmly. Through an interpreter he said, "No, my time was not slow, after all you could call my run a Mongolian Olympic marathon record." That was an excellent reply I thought.

He carried on. "And as for it being the greatest day of my life, no it isn't."

The reporters craned forward with their notebooks at the ready. Tuul said, "Up till six months ago I had no sight at all. I was a totally blind person. When I trained it was only with the aid of friends who ran with me. But a group of doctors came to my country last year to do humanitarian medical work. One doctor took a look at my eyes and asked me questions. I told him I had been unable to see since childhood. He said 'But I can fix your sight with a simple operation'. So he did the operation on me and after 20 years I could see again. So today wasn't the greatest day of my life. The best day was when I got my sight back and I saw my wife and two daughters for the first time. And they are beautiful."
Page down past the stuff about the swimmers to read this story in full.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

Results for Sunday, August 22

Athletics: Women's marathon: Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar of Mongolia finished 66th with a time of 3:48:42 -- half an hour behind the 65th-place finisher and over an hour and twenty minutes behind the winner. Sixteen competitors did not finish. Men's high jump: Liu Yang (China) and Alfredo Deza (Peru) both finished at the bottom of their qualifying heats with jumps of 2.10 metres, the minimum required, so I'll award them a last-place tie. Two jumpers received no mark; the gold-medal jump was 2.36 metres. Men's triple jump: Armen Martirosyan of Armenia had the shortest distance in the heats at 15.05 metres; the winning jump in the final was 17.79 metres. Men's 1,500-metre wheelchair: The wheelchair athletes weren't allowed to march with the athletes during the opening ceremonies. Screw that; I'm including them here. Joel Jeannot of France finished 7th with a time of 3:22.14, a little less than 12 seconds off the winning pace. There was one DNF. Women's 800-metre wheelchair: British athlete Tanni Grey Thompson finished 8th with a time of 1:56.87; this was a much closer race, with a bit more than three seconds separating all finishers. Men's hammer throw: Alfred Kruger of the USA had a best throw of 69.38 metres in the qualifying; the winner's best in the final was 83.19 metres. Two tossers received no mark. Men's 100-metre: In the Games' marquee event, the slowest time put in in the heats was by Sultan Saeed of the Maldives at 11.72 seconds; the winner's time was 9.85 seconds.

Cycling: Evelyn Garcia of El Salvador had the 12th-slowest speed in the qualifying rounds of the women's individual pursuit. Her speed was 45.752 km/h; the top eight speeds (you needed a top eight finish to advance to the next round) were between 50.191 and 52.325 km/h in the qualifying round.

Diving: South Africa's Jenna Dreyer finished 34th in the preliminary round of the women's 10-metre platform event. Her score of 186.90 was 184.20 points behind the leader in that round.

Rowing: Whether the last-place finisher is determined in the repechage, the semifinals, or one of the finals seems to depend on the number of entrants. Women's lightweight double sculls: Pham Thi Hien and Nguyen Thi Thi, Vietnam (C final). Men's lightweight double sculls: Three teams did not make it out of the C/D semifinal, but of those three, the Uzbek squad of Sergey Bogdanov and Ruslan Naurzaliyev had the slowest time: 6:45.47. Men's lightweight four: The foursome from Great Britain didn't make it out of the repechage. Women's quadruple sculls: Belarus (B final); only eight teams competed. Men's quadruple sculls: The foursome from France didn't make it out of the repechage. Women's eight: Canada (woe! alack!) didn't make it out of the repechage. Men's eight: Great Britain (B final). And that wraps up rowing.

Sailing: In the women's Europe class, Natalia Ivanova of Russia finished 25th; and Sami Kooheji of Bahrain finished 42nd in the mixed laser class.

Shooting: In the men's 50-metre rifle, three positions, Alexsander Babchenko of Kyrgyzstan finished 40th with a score of 1130; the scores were fairly close together in this event, but you needed a score of 1164 to advance to the final round. And in the men's skeet, Syrian Roger Dahi finished 41st with a score of 106 (those advancing to the final had scores of 122 or better).

Standings to date: China solidifies its hold on first place, France and Kyrgyzstan make a run for the "top", Great Britain makes a "strong" debut, and even more countries get added to the list.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Baser Wasiqi in 1996

Much is made about the so-called spirit of the games; if it's real, it exists closer to the back of the pack than the front. A Baser Wasiqi of Afghanistan finished 111th out of 111 in the men's marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics -- about 1½ hours after the 110th-place finisher. Though workers were already prepping the stadium for the following night's closing ceremonies, marathon volunteers made sure he was welcomed at the finish line. This is the kind of story the media just eats up.

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