Winning an Olympic gold is the ultimate high in many sports. The precious metal eluded some of the best teams as well as individuals.
Winning an Olympic gold is the ultimate high in many sports. The precious metal eluded some of the best teams as well as individuals. Here is a recap of the nearly-winners of gold at the Olympics over the years.
Japanese judoka Ryoko Tamura had to be content with a silver medal at two successive Olympics, 1992 and 1996. Just when people started to feel that there was an Olympic curse at work, Ryoko responded with the typical brilliance of a champion. She won the gold in the next two.
Unlike Ryoko, however, Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks wasn’t able to produce the stellar last-ditch effort that was required to win the gold in multiple attempts. He ended his Olympic career with four silver medals, losing out on the gold medal to a different opponent each time.
Fredericks, arguably the greatest African sprinter of all-time, was in the form of his life at Atlanta 1996. But his main rival, Michael Johnson, nailed the 200m gold with an otherworldly performance.
The American’s world record of 19.32 seconds lasted until 2008. Despite running a super race in 19.68s, Fredericks was once again the bridesmaid. Fredericks recorded 27 sub-10 seconds in the 100m and 24 sub-20 seconds in his career.
In seven Olympics since 1980, Merlene Ottey won eight medals but none of them was a gold. At the ripe old age of 36, the Jamaican produced her best in 1996. She lost the 100m gold to USA’s Gail Devers in a photo finish. In the 200m final, Frenchwoman Marie-Jose Perec edged Ottey out for the first place by 12-hundredth of a second. Maybe she was destined not to stand on the top of the podium as her final attempt in 2004, this time for Slovenia at the age of 44, ended in the semi-finals.
Franziska van Almsick of Germany was the top freestyle swimmer in the world in the 90s but she always came up short in the gold medal race. Over four editions, she won four silver and six bronze. At least, she retired with the satisfaction of losing out to swimmers who rose to the occasion. But American swimmer Shirley Babashoff ended her career on a bitter note with six silver medals in 1972 and 1976 mainly as a result of competing with chemically-augmented East Germans.
There was certainly an Olympic curse on Steve Backley as the Great Britain javelin thrower finished second twice and third once in the 1990s. On all the three occasions, the gold medal went to Czech Republic’s Jan Zelezny, who was never able to beat Backley in four editions of the European championship.
An Olympic gold eluded some top teams as well. The Italian men’s volleyball team should have won a gold medal in 1996 but they lost to the Netherlands in the final, having handed out a 3-0 drubbing to the Dutch.