DFL

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

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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Derek Redmond in 1992

Most last-place finishes lack the obvious drama or poignancy of Derek Redmond's last-place finish in his 400-metre heat at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where his father helped him finish the race.

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Results for Sunday, August 15

Cycling: Today it was the women's road race, and the last to finish the 118.8-km course was Michelle Hyland of New Zealand, who, with a time of 3:40:43, finished in 56th place -- 16:19 behind the winner, according to unofficial results. Hyland appears to have brought up the rear of the final seven riders to finish.

Shooting: In the women's 10-metre air pistol, Francis Gorrin of Venezuela finished 41st with a score of 358; the top eight shooters (who made it to the final) had scores between 384 and 387. Francesco Repiso Romero of Andorra -- yes, Andorra -- finished 35th in the men's trap with a score of 106; the top six were well ahead of the rest of the field with scores above 140.

Swimming: In the women's 100-metre butterfly heats, the slowest time -- 1:07.94, slightly more than ten seconds behind the gold medallist's final time -- was put in by Natasha Sara Georgeos of St. Lucia. Nepal's Alice Shrestha finished last in the men's 100-metre breaststroke heat; his time of 1:12.25 was nearly 12 seconds off that of the winner in the final. In the women's 400-metre freestyle, Olga Beresnyeva of Ukraine finished her heat with a time of 4:26.30, well behind the winner's final time of 4:05.34. And in the men's 4×100 freestyle relay, China's team just beat out Greece for the slowest time in the heats (3:24.31, compared with the winning team's world-record time of 3:13.17).

Weightlifting: Virginie Lachaume (France) was eighth of eight in the women's 53-kg category; she lifted a total of 175 kg, compared with 222.5 kg for the winner. In the men's 56-kg category, Ahmed Saad of Egypt finished last in 11th place, lifting a total of 232.5 kg (compared with the winner's 295 kg), but six other lifters did not finish.

Standings to date: Egypt joins Algeria in a two-way tie for first, and a total of 16 countries, from the big (France, China) to the little (Andorra, St. Lucia) share third place. As more results are posted, perhaps some of these ties will be broken -- or perhaps we'll have a 37-way tie for second place! Stay tuned!

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Results for Saturday, August 14

Cycling: According to the unofficial results, Dawid Krupa of Poland finished 75th in the men's road race with a time of 6:00:25 -- 18:41 behind the leader. Dozens of riders, of course, did not finish the 224.4-km race.

Diving: It was synchronized diving on Saturday. Mark Ruiz and Kyle Prandi (USA) came in eighth place in the men's synchronized 10-metre platform; their score of 325.44 was 58.44 points behind the gold medallists. In the women's synchronized 3-metre springboard, Diamantina Georgatou and Sotiria Koustopetrou (Greece) grabbed eighth and last place with a score of 270.33 -- 67.57 points behind the leaders.

Fencing: Nassim Islam Bernaoui (Algeria) placed 39th in the men's individual sabre event Saturday. [Update]

Shooting: In the women's 10-metre air rifle, Macedonia's Divna Pesic finished in 44th place with 368 points -- only 20 points behind the gold medallist. And Rudolf Knijnenburg of Bolivia finished 47th in the men's 10-metre air pistol with 548 points -- only 42 points behind. Not that I know anything about shooting, but the spread between first and last seems awfully close.

Swimming: There are no posted overall results, so I've gone by the slowest result from the heats. In the men's 400-metre individual medley, Nikita Polyakov (Uzbekistan) had the slowest time of 5:09.66 -- more than a minute behind the gold-medallist final time of 4:08.26. In the men's 400-metre freestyle, Malta's Neil Agius finished in 4:22.14; the winner's final time was 3:43.10. Sabria Dahane's (Algeria) time of 5:10.20 was nearly 45 seconds off the winner's pace of 4:34.83 in the women's 400-metre individual medley. I expect the spread in team sports to be closer generally, so it's no surprise that in the women's 4×100-metre freestyle relay, the Swiss team's last-place time of 3:47.47 is less than 12 seconds behind that of the winning team.

Weightlifting: In the women's 48-kg class, Egypt's Enga Mohamed lifted a total of 165 kg, finishing in 14th place; the gold-medal winner lifted 210 kg.

Standings to date: Algeria takes an early first-day lead with two last-place finishes! The rest of the field is in a nine-way tie for second with one last-place finish each.

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Welcome to DFL

The idea for DFL only popped into my head an hour or two ago, and this blog will only last until the end of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens -- two weeks from today. In the meantime, it will do something that will be seen as quirky by some and cruel by others: it will report the last-place finisher in as many Olympic events as possible.

Some sports won't be possible to do here. Boxing and judo, for example, don't rank those eliminated in the same round: there can be 16 eliminees in the round of 32, for example.

But why do this, except to be a global prick?

Okay, that's part of it. But it's also to celebrate participation -- which gets too much short shrift at the Games, except with novelty acts like Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards and the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Calgary Games -- instead of complete and utter triumph. Triumph is sexy, but participation is brave. And therein lies a tale.

I'm no athlete myself. In junior high, though -- before Osgood-Schlatter Disease put an end to my nascent track career -- I tried my hand at distance running. I entered my school's track meet and ran the 1,500 metres -- and trailed badly. In fact, I was lapped before the finish. One of my fellow students was laughing at me. But my gym teacher, hearing him, went up to him and said, "I don't see you running out there." And the kid, whose identity I never found out (I heard the story afterword from my teacher), began to cheer.

Remember that about the last-place finishers at these Olympics. They finished last, but at least they're there. And we're not.

(A final technical note: I'll be recording last place finishers. Disqualifications and DNFs don't count.)

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