A Dean who frowned on the Olympics!

The 18-year-old Alfred Hajos, the youngest champion of the inaugural Olympics, conquered the cold open Mediterranean waters of the Bay of Zea where swimming was held, battling four-metre waves but the Hungarian got a muted reception from the Dean of his university when he returned home.

Albert Hill of Great Britain won the 800m and 1500m double at the 1920 Antwerp Games.   -  The Hindu Archives

After his father drowned in the River Danube, Alfred Hajos was determined to become a good swimmer. He became so good that he won the 100m and the 1200m freestyle events at the first-ever Olympics of the modern era, in Athens in 1896.

But it took some time for the Hungarian architecture student to persuade his university to allow him leave to go to the Olympics.

The 18-year-old, the youngest champion of the inaugural Olympics, conquered the cold open Mediterranean waters of the Bay of Zea where swimming was held, battling four-metre waves but he got a muted reception from the Dean of his university when he returned home.

“Your medals are of no interest to me, but I am eager to hear your replies in your next examination,” said the Dean.

VERSATILE CARL

Carl Schumann must have been a very busy man those days in Athens. The German competed in four disciplines — athletics, gymnastics, weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling — and came up with four titles. Nobody had a bigger haul.

Though the 26-year-old failed to pick medals in athletics where he competed in the long jump, triple jump and shot put, and was fourth in the two-handed weightlifting competition, lifting 90kg, Schumann was at his best in gymnastics, winning three titles in one day on the horizontal bar, parallel bars and the individual vault event. Later, he won the wrestling title too. Only three athletes have competed in four different sports at the same edition and Schumann was the most successful.

DID WE DO THE OLYMPICS?

The 1900 Games were held as part of a World Fair in Paris. Competitions were spread over five months but were so poorly promoted that many of the athletes were not even aware that they were competing in the Olympics.

There was so much confusion that many teams had athletes from different countries in the same team. Women also made their Olympic debut in Paris.

A MARATHON IN A CAR!

Much like Paris, the St. Louis Olympics was held along with a World Fair and amid much confusion.

So much so that American Fred Lorz tried to capitalise on it to win the marathon, covering a major part of the distance in a car. He got out just before the finish and was disqualified, with his compatriot Thomas Hicks taking the gold.

SIX MEDALS ON A WOODEN LEG!

One of the most remarkable athletes at St. Louis was American gymnast George Eyser. His left leg was made of wood but that did not stop him from winning six medals.

THE BEST, BUT NO GOLD

Surprisingly, no gold was awarded to the Greco-Roman wrestling event at the 1912 Games in Stockholm though Swede Anders Ahlgren and Finn Ivar Bohling contested one of the most remarkable bouts ever seen at an Olympics.

Despite the final running for nine hours and despite the special rules for such cases, the two could not be separated. So, it was declared a draw and since the Olympic rules clearly said then that the gold could be awarded only if a man had beaten his opponent, the two were awarded silver medals.

BEER, HIS FUEL

Britain’s Albert Hill, the champion in the 800m and 1500m, thrived on a strange diet at the 1920 Games in Antwerp.

After the 1916 Games in Berlin was cancelled owing to the World War I, the 1920 Games was held in Belgium. And Hill, who had suffered a serious illness during the War, refused to drink Belgian water. Instead he lived on a diet of Stella Artois beer!