Has An Olympic Athlete Died While Competing?

Olympic rings. Editorial credit: Singulyarra / Shutterstock.com
Olympic rings. Editorial credit: Singulyarra / Shutterstock.com

Deaths have been part of sports for a long time. The rigorous routines that athletes go through all their lives just to gain fitness do not insulate them from death. The Olympic Games have not been spared these unfortunate events. Some of the games involve a lot of risks; once in a while, these risks become a reality, and life is lost despite all the precautions taken.

Causes Of Athlete Deaths

Olympic athletes are among the fittest people in the world and given the training programs they adhere to in preparation for the Olympics and other events, it is a rare occasion to see them die. However, it has happened before, and some of the causes cited in most cases are usually related to accidents. Nearly all the games involve speed, and occasionally collisions happen. In rare cases, these collisions turn tragic, but most times athletes end up with minor injuries that can be treated easily.

Another probable cause of sudden death is the use of performance enhancement drugs, and these supplements are banned for a reason because they interfere with the normal metabolism of the body. Some of these drugs can lead to heart failure when the athlete is pushed to the limits and may cause death or permanent damage to vital organs of the body.

At the alpine skiing event of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Alpine skiing can be a dangerous sport and has led to Olympic deaths in the past. Image credit: Happy_ Jinny/Shutterstock

Notable Deaths Throughout Olympic History

The first recorded Olympic death was that of Francisco Lazaro, a Portuguese marathon runner who died of sunstroke and heart trouble in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912. He had run 19 miles before collapsing, and his death was determined to be due to the suet he had covered his body with to prevent sunburns, which stopped his body from sweating properly.

In 1960, a Danish cyclist named Knut Jensen collapsed and fell off his bicycle in the middle of the track, fractured his skull on impact, and died.

In 1964, an Australian skier named Ross Milne died after he veered off-course and crashed into a tree while training for the Winter Olympics in Austria/ He crashed as he attempted to avoid hitting onlookers who were standing too close to the track. In the same Olympic event, another athlete, Kazimierz Kay of Britain, met an untimely death when she was involved in a train accident.

In 1972, the most high-profile Olympic deaths occurred when 11 athletes from Israel were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group calling itself Black September. The incident disrupted the 1972 Olympics with most nations pulling out their athletes in protest.

In the 1992 Winter Olympics, 27-year-old Nicolas Bochatay, a Swiss skier, crashed into a snow machine and died while warming up in France.

In 2000, Hyginus Anugo, a Nigerian relay sprinter, died after being hit by a vehicle while training in Sydney, Australia.

In 2010 a Georgian Olympian, Nodar Kumaritashvili, died just before the opening ceremony in Vancouver, Canada after he lost control of his sled during training, hit a steel pole, and died.


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