On This Day

  • July 22 down the years

The greatest Olympic cheat?

Jim Fox was one of the pentathletes to be conned by Boris Onishchenko © Getty Images
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1976
One of the great cheats in Olympic history, Boris Onishchenko, won Britain a gold medal. Consider his case for a second. In the modern pentathlon, he was world individual champion in 1971 before being overshadowed by Soviet team mate Pavel Lednev, who won the title for the next three years. At the Olympic Games, Onishchenko finished fifth in 1968 and won silver in 1972. Team gold in 1972 wasn't enough - and by 1976 he was 38 years old. So he came up with a cunning plan that a James Bond baddie would have been proud of. During the fencing section, Onishchenko was credited with hits against one or two pentathletes, including Britain's 'Jim' Fox, who were sure they hadn't been touched. Eventually, bad Boris's épée was examined - and lo and behold, he'd wired it with a circuit-breaker which registered a hit whenever he wanted. He was flung out of the Games and disappeared from public view back home. Without the Soviets, the team event was suddenly wide open - and Adrian Parker's record run, backed by strong performances from Danny Nightingale and the veteran Fox, overhauled Czechoslovakia for the gold.

2010
Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan became the first bowler in history to take 800 Test wickets. The 38-year-old, playing in his final Test, began his final match eight wickets short of the milestone. After dismissing record Test run-scorer Sachin Tendulkar, Muralitharan went on to take 5-63 to force India to follow on. He sealed his place in the history books when last man Pragyan Ojha was caught at slip to bowl India out for 338.

1980
Duncan Goodhew won Olympic gold. With the USA boycotting the Moscow Games, he finished the 100 metres breaststroke ahead of a Russian and an Australian. His time of 1 minute 3.44 seconds wasn't shabby, but it was slower than his British record and David Wilkie's silver-medal swim four years earlier (20 July), and well behind the sub-1:03 times set by two Americans in their Championships a week later. But enough to make Goodhew Britain's best-loved baldie.

1990
Nick Faldo won the British Open three times. Twice by gritting it out while Americans buckled under pressure (19 July) and once by dominating the whole event. Here at St Andrews, he shot 65 in the second round and 67 in the first and third, so he could afford a perfectly acceptable 71 and win by five shots from Mark McNulty and reigning US PGA champion Payne Stewart. Faldo's total of 270 was 18 under par, a record for any Major until Tiger Woods won on the same course ten years later (23 July).

When Pádraig Harrington won the British Open in 2007, he became the first European to win a Major since Paul Lawrie, also at Carnoustie, in 1999 (18 July). Six shots behind Sergio García after the third round, Harrington drew level when García found a bunker at the last. The Spaniard was probably still depressed when he fell two shots behind at the first hole of the play-off, and Harrington could afford a bogey on the fourth and last. He won £750,000. When the Open was held at Carnoustie in 1931, the winner took home £500. Harrington retained the title the following year (20 July).

2005
The first woman to pole vault five metres. It had to be Yelena Isinbayeva, of course. Today at Crystal Palace, she set her 10th and 11th world records: 4.96 metres followed by the magic 5.00. The following month, she reached 5.01 on her way to 5.06 in 2009 .

Another top athlete was born in 1949. Lasse Virén in Finland. The only runner to successfully defend the 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles at the Olympics, he began with a remarkable world record in 1972 (31 August) after falling over! He destroyed Britain's Brendan Foster four years later (26 July), then ran perhaps his best race by holding off the sprinters in the 5,000 (30 July). And he very nearly emulated Emil Zátopek (27 July 1952) when he finished fifth in the Marathon (31 July). Virén saved himself for the Olympics, winning only a silver at the Europeans, behind Foster's brilliant run in 1974 (8 September). He was accused of blood doping during his career (and his team mate Kaarlo Maaninka admitted to it), but it wasn't illegal at the time. Virén's three world records were all set in 1972: the 10,000 in the Olympics, and at 5,000 metres and two miles.

1996
The mightiest of atoms won his third Olympic gold in a row. Naim Süleymanoğlu was known as Naim Suleimanov in Bulgaria, where he was born. In 1984, the government began oppressing ethnic Turks: closing mosques, outlawing Turkish language and clothing, imprisoning and even executing. Two years later, Süleymanoğlu sought asylum at the Turkish consulate in Melbourne. He won his first gold medal at the Olympics two years later and retained that featherweight title four years later. Under five feet tall (his dad was 5' 0, his mum 4' 7½) but rather strong for his weight, he broke world records in all three categories at the 1988 Games and two more today: 187½ kilograms in the jerk and 335 in total. He needed that record jerk to beat Valerios Leonidis of Greece by only 2½ kilos, but clutch performances were never a problem for Süleymanoğlu at his peak.

1894
The first car race worthy of the name. Calling it a race is stretching it a bit: it was a reliability trial from Paris to Rouen. With those early jalopies, getting there at all was as hard as getting there fast. So everyone drove nice and carefully, at average speeds of not much more than ten miles an hour. The winner, Count Jules de Dion, driving one of his own cars, took 6 hours 48 minutes to cover the 79 miles, finishing 3½ minutes ahead of two Peugeots. The Count won the race but couldn't claim the first prize because he wasn't accompanied by a mechanic. Penalised for making it harder for himself. Or hopefully for being a rich aristo who could afford a car in the first place.

Michael Johnson was badly let down by Antonio Pettigrew © Getty Images
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1998
Michael Johnson brought home the baton to set a new world record of 2 minutes 54.20 seconds for the 4x400 metres relay. But it was deleted from the books after Antonio Pettigrew admitted having taken drugs. He beat Roger Black to win the world title in 1991, but Britain got their own back in the relay (September 1).

1913
The astounding Joe Grim fought his last fight. He lost it, of course. He lost nearly all of them. Joe Grim was a physical freak, one of the weirdest boxers who ever lived. Born Saverio Giannone in Italy, he probably had as many as 300 pro fights - but like so many old fighters, his documented record is much slimmer. He fought 56 official fights, winning a grand total of five, including only one in his last nine years. Useless, then. But famous with it. Joe Grim was a rubberman. You could knock him down him a hundred times and he usually got up, without any apparent signs of distress. He even survived a six-rounder with future world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who flattened him more than a dozen times. Today in Philadelphia, the hitting carried on but the bouncing up eventually stopped. Joe Borrell floored Grim in every round, including six times in the sixth, before putting him away for good.

1976
Steroids allow you to train harder, with less recovery between sessions. At the Olympics today, 17-year-old East German swim queen Kornelia Ender won the 100 metres butterfly and 200 freestyle in the space of 27 minutes, her third and fourth golds of the Games. She equalled her own world record in the first race and broke one in the second.

2006
South African scrum-half Fourie du Preez scored a try after only 17 seconds, one of the fastest in international rugby union. Against the All Blacks, too. But New Zealand recovered to win 35-17 in Wellington. Their own scrum-half Piri Weepu also scored a try, and Dan Carter kicked 25 points. The fastest international try was scored by Scotland in 1999 (6 February).

1900
The only track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal despite not finishing his race. The 5,000 metre team event was held on a Sunday, so - as so often - the Americans didn't take part. That left the hosts France against Britain, who were a man short. Only a team's first four runners counted towards their score - but the French officials still insisted that Britain find a fifth. So they roped in Stan Rowley, an Australian who'd finished third in each of the three sprint events. He managed the first lap of the team race, then slowed to a walk, then strolled happily round the track until the French accepted the absurdity and let him retire. Britain won the event by 26 points to 29.

On the same track on the same day, versatile American Walter Tewksbury won the first ever Olympic 200 metres final, his fifth medal of the Games. He also won the 400 metre hurdles, finished second in the 60 metres and 100 metres, and third in the 200 metre hurdles. Today he finished well ahead of Norman Pritchard, who represented Britain but was born in India.

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