DFL

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

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Wrapping Things Up Tomorrow

There will be a few posts tomorrow to wrap things up: I'll look at the final results and point out some of the highlights, summarize the remaining media coverage, and tell you where things go from here.

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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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David Moorcroft in 1984

"Better DFL than DNF" -- that's what one of you said the saying was in the events you competed in. Finishing the race despite all odds is especially meaningful to some of us -- especially when those odds are tougher than usual. For example, an extremely slow marathon finish on a hot, humid day is all the more impressive when so many others fall by the wayside. Consider the case of David Moorcroft at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, who started and finished the 5,000-metre final despite a pre-race pelvic injury: his goal was simply to avoid getting lapped, and he achieved it. Thanks to Paul Goodfellow for the link.

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Marc Jenkins

Gavin Phillips writes to draw our attention to the story of Marc Jenkins, who finished last in the men's triathlon (results) because he had to run with his bike on his shoulder for half a kilometre because of a broken bike wheel.

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Results for Sunday, August 29

Rhythmic Gymnastics: In the qualifying rounds for the individual all-around, Wania Monteiro of Cape Verde finished 24th with a score of 71.900; qualifiers for the final had scores of 95.925 or more. She had fairly low technical marks but otherwise didn't do all that badly, from what I can tell.

Handball: The medal finals were held today. In the women's 9/10 classification match Thursday, Greece lost to Angola 38-23 and finished 10th; they were 0-4 in the preliminaries. Egypt lost 30-24 to Slovenia in the men's 11/12 classification match and finished 12th; they were 0-5 in the preliminaries.

Volleyball: In men's volleyball, Australia won fewer sets than Tunisia, so while they both finished the prelims with 0-5 records and are ranked tied for 11th, I'm awarding the last-place finish to Australia.

Water Polo: Egypt was 0-5 in the preliminary round of men's water polo and on Friday lost the 11/12 classification match to Kazakhstan 15-7, so they finished 12th.

Standings to date: Cape Verde is the 103rd (and possibly final) country to make the standings. Thanks to last-place finishes in team sports for which it was able to qualify, Egypt makes a last-minute dash for the "top", Australia slips into second place and Greece -- which, as host country, was able to enter a number of team events that it might not otherwise qualify for -- solidifies its lead with 13 last-place finishes, five more than Australia.

All that's left now is the marathon, which is in progress now.

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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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Results for Saturday, August 28

Athletics: Women's high jump: Australia's Petrina Price and one other athlete cleared 1.80 metres, but she finishes last because she took more attempts to do it. The winner's final height was 2.06 metres. Women's 1,500 metre: Sumaira Zahoor of Pakistan had the slowest heat time of 4:49.33, about five seconds behind the next-slowest time; the winner's time in the final was 3:57.90. Men's javelin: Edi Ponos of Croatia -- his best throw was 71.43 metres; the winner's best in the final was 86.50 metres. Men's 800 metre: Cornelius Sibe of Surinam had a heat time of 2:00.06, the only result above two minutes; the winner's final time was 1:44.45. Men's 5,000-metre: Sergiy Lebid of Ukraine with a heat time of 14:10.23; the winner's final time was 13:14.39. There was one DNF. Men's 4×100-metre relay: The only result above 39 seconds came from the relay team from Russia: 39.19 seconds, which they put in in the heats. The winner's final time was 38.07 seconds. Doesn't that seem close to you? Women's 4×400-metre relay: Greece had a bad run in the final, finishing at 3:45.70, but they did make it there; the slowest heat time was put in by Senegal at 3:35.18. The fastest final time was 3:19.01. Men's 4×400-metre relay: Spain had, at 3:05.03, the slowest heat time; the winning final time was 2:55.91. And that's it for track and field except for one event -- the marathon today.

Basketball: On the women's side, South Korea finished 12th with an 0-6 record. It was the same result for Angola on the men's side: they too finished 0-6 and 12th.

Canoe/Kayak (Flatwater Racing): Men's 500-metre K1: For some reason the Athens 2004 site isn't covering the results of heat four, where Steven Ferguson (see previous entries: New Zealand Kayaking Controversy, Steven Ferguson Update) finished last with the slowest time of 2:06.937. He had to work at it to finish last, though, because the next slowest kayaker was only four seconds ahead of him, and though that kayaker was a good 15 seconds behind everyone else, he qualified for the semifinal. Ferguson was the only one not to do so -- which is, of course, what he wanted. Men's 500-metre C1: This one's tricky, because everybody made it out of the prelims and posted different results in the semis -- i.e., the person with the slowest time in the prelims was not the same as the one slowest in the semis. To square this circle, I'm going to go to the slowest semifinal time, which was put in by Emanuel Horvaticek of Croatia and which was the slowest time overall: 2:06.347. Women's 500-metre K1: Thi Cach Doan of Vietnam had the slowest heat time, 2:06.126, but Indonesia's Sarce Aronggear was the only competitor not to advance from the prelims, so the last-place finish goes to her rather than Thi. (I'm really having to split hairs in these events!) Men's 500-metre K2: The Chinese twosome of Yijun Yin and Lei Wang had the slowest time in the prelims, made the semis, and finished last there. They were about eight seconds behind the winner in each case. Men's 500-metre C2: Americans Jordan Malloch and Nathan Johnson finished last in the repechage here, too. Women's 500-metre K2: Paula Harvey and Susan Tegg of Australia also finished last in their repechage.

Cycling: In the men's mountain bike event, Emmanouil Kotoulas of Greece placed 45th, three laps back, with no time recorded. There were five DNFs.

Diving: In the prelims for the men's 10-metre platform, Andras Hajnal of Hungary finished 33rd with a score of 305.79 -- 207.27 points behind the leader in the preliminaries (who went on to win silver). No diving accidents, just low marks.

Football: Serbia-Montenegro finished 16th.

Rhythmic Gymnastics: Poland finished 10th in the group all-around qualification with a total score of 41.775; qualifiers had scores of between 44.600 and 49.875.

Sailing: In the tornado class, Mauricio Santa Cruz Oliveira and Joao Carlos Jordao finished 17th with 172 total points and 155 net points -- the winners had 48 and 34 points, respectively. And in the star class, Mark Mansfield and Killian Collins finished 17th (142 total, 125 net; the winners had 60 total, 42 net).

Volleyball: Kenya was 0-5 and had less good results than the other 0-5 team, so instead of awarding an 11th-place tie to both, I'm assigning the last-place finish to Kenya.

Standings to date: More than half the countries at these Games now have at least one last-place finish. Australia moves into third place and China moves past Uzbekistan and France to make the top five.

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Steven Ferguson Update

A few days back I mentioned Steven Ferguson, the New Zealander who deliberately finished last (not what DFL stands for, incidentally) so as to avoid competing in the semifinals and to save his strength for the 1,000-metre K2 final. In the end, though, Ferguson and his partner, Ben Fouhy, finished eighth (out of nine) in that final Friday morning, about three seconds behind the winner. Whether this is just the result of bad karma or an indication that saving his strength may have helped, but not enough, who can say?

Incidentally, this story in yesterday's New Zealand Herald, which highlights the Ferguson story but talks about coming in last in general, is pretty good.

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