Italy’s Dorando Pietri, Sweden’s Frithiof Mårtensson and his compatriot Mauritz Andersson, American athlete Ray Ewry, Sweden’s Oscar Swahn, Swimmer Henry Taylor or American athlete Melvin Sheppard - they all made history at the London 1908 Olympic Games. Meet them here!
Italy’s Dorando Pietri entered the stadium in first place at the end of the marathon, but then collapsed, exhausted. As the officials helped him to his feet he collapsed again, before eventually being helped over the finish line. While he was the first to cross the line, he was disqualified for receiving help, although his courageous efforts to finish the race ensured he is remembered to this day.
In the spirit of sportsmanship, the middleweight Greco-Roman wrestling final between Sweden’s Frithiof Mårtensson and his compatriot Mauritz Andersson was postponed by one day to allow Mårtensson to recover from a minor injury. He duly recovered and won.
American athlete Ray Ewry won gold medals in the standing high jump and standing long jump for the third consecutive Games. His performances in 1908 brought his total Olympic medal tally to eight golds.
Sweden’s Oscar Swahn won his first Olympic gold medal at the age of 60, as he triumphed in the running deer single-shot event. The next day he claimed his second gold with victory in the team event, while he also earned a bronze medal in the running deer double-shot contest.
Swimmer Henry Taylor became the first Briton to win three gold medals at a single Games with victories in the 400m and 1,500m events as well as the 4x200m freestyle relay. This record for a British athlete was not equalled until 2008, when cyclist Chris Hoy won three gold medals in Beijing.
American athlete Melvin Sheppard shone on the track, winning both the 800m and 1,500m (an achievement equalled by only four other athletes in Olympic history). He also competed in a unique relay event, with two athletes running 200m, followed by another who ran 400m and finally a fourth who ran 800m. Sheppard ran the last 800m for the United States team to win his third gold medal of the Games.