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PIETRI Dorando
PIETRI Dorando

Dorando PIETRI

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The Man Who Became Famous For Not Winning

When Dorando Pietri entered the stadium at the end of the 1908 marathon, he was completely unknown. When the news of what happened in the next few minutes spread around the world, he would become an international celebrity.

Dorando, as he came to be known, had run in the Intercalated Olympic Games of 1906 in Athens, but he did not finish. In 1908, Charles Hefferon of South Africa built a huge lead, but he tired dramatically and Dorando passed him one mile from the stadium. When Dorando appeared at the entrance to the track, the crowd cheered him vigourously.

But immediately it became clear that something was wrong. Dazed, Dorando headed in the wrong direction. Officials directed him in the right direction, but he collapsed. Helped to his feet, he collapsed again…and again and again. Finally another runner, John Hayes of the United States, ran into the stadium. The officials lifted up Dorando and helped him across the finish line. He was disqualified for receiving outside aid, but his plucky effort made him famous.

The Queen of England presented him with a special gold cup; Irving Berlin wrote a popular song in his honour; and his exploit sparked a marathon craze that spread around the world. It also greatly increased interest in the Olympics.

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Pietri Gold Cup

25th July 1908: Queen Alexandra presenting Dorando Pietri with a special Gold Cup the day after he was disqualified from the Marathon at the 1908 London Olympics, despite finishing first, for being helped over the line. The Gold Medal went to John Hayes of the USA. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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Pietris Marathon

24th July 1908: Dorando Pietri of Italy in action during the Marathon at the 1908 London Olympics. Despite finishing first he was disqualified for being helped over the line after collapsing just yards from the end. The Gold Medal went to John Hayes of the USA. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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Dorando Pietri

July 1908: Dorando Pietri of Italy who, despite finishing first in the Marathon at the 1908 London Olympics, was disqualified for being helped over the line after collapsing just yards from the end. The Gold Medal went to John Hayes of the USA. Pietri is seen here with a special Gold Cup presented to him by the Queen. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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Dorando Pietri

circa 1908: Dorando Pietri of Italy, the Marathon runner who finished first in the 1908 London Olympics, but was diqualified for being helped over the finish line after collapsing just yards from the line. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


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