Wacky races

There is never a dull moment when following the No.1 Olympic sport. Here are 10 of the craziest stories from 2019

Record-breaking results and championship-winning victories are not always rewarded with the greatest amount of coverage in athletics. Instead, quirky and off-beat moments catch the imagination of fans and swiftly snowball on social media. Below are some of the zaniest moments of the last 12 months.

Sportsmanlike stragglers

Braima Dabo became an unlikely hero on the opening day of the World Championships in Doha when he helped fellow 5000m runner Jonathan Busby in the final stages of their 5000m heat (see main image above).

Busby, of Aruba, found himself on jelly legs on the last lap but Busby, from Guinea-Bissau, came to his rescue by putting his arm around his shoulder and carrying him to the finish. “Anyone in that situation would have done the same,” said Dabo, whose sportsmanship made headlines around the world.

Mo versus Haile

Race week for the Virgin Money London Marathon in April was dominated by an amazing spat between Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie. The British runner told journalists that money, a watch and mobile phones were stolen from his room when he stayed at Gebrselassie’s hotel in Addis Ababa, but Gebrselassie hit back by accusing Farah of “disgraceful conduct”. It was a remarkable row and not the best preparation for the marathon itself, where Farah finished a disappointed fifth.

Infinitely entertaining

Few athletes made as much of an impact on social media this year than the magnificently-named Infinite Tucker. The 400m hurdler dived across the finish line Superman-style to beat Robert Grant in 49.38 at an event in Arkansas. “It wasn’t anything planned,” he said. “It was split second decision. I had a lot of emotions in my head.”

GB relay team gaffe

The administrative cock-up of the year goes to the British team at the European Team Championships in Bydgoszcz after they incorrectly named a shot putter who wasn’t even at the event as one of their 4x400m runners.

Thrower Youcef Zatat was listed as part of the quartet instead of 400m man Rabah Yousif, which led to the team being disqualified before the race began. British Athletics described it as a “technical error” whereas Zatat saw the funny side and tweeted: “For those asking, 10000000% sure I would have run!”

Real-life Wonder Woman

One week after winning the world 50km title in Brasov, Alyson Dixon set a half-marathon world record for the ‘fastest woman dressed as a superhero’ with 78:27 at the Simplyhealth Great North Run. What’s more, she raised several thousand pounds for charity in the process.

Ex-long jumper hits jackpot

Marquise Goodwin finished 10th in the long jump at the London 2012 Olympics but he won far more money and fame this year by winning a 40 yards sprint competition for NFL players. The 29-year-old American, who now plays as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, won a cool $1 million after out-sprinting his American football rivals.

Premature celebration in Lausanne

Hagos Gebrhiwet is not short of experience. The Ethiopian won 5000m bronze at the Rio Olympics and has taken medals at two world championships. But at the Diamond League in Lausanne this year he inexplicably stopped with 400m to go. After raising his hands in victory, he then realised he had miscounted the laps and, after re-joining the race, went from first to 10th.

Diamond disaster for triple jumpers

Triple jumpers like Christian Taylor and Will Claye were hopping mad at the idea of earning much less than other athletes at the Diamond League in Rome, so they pulled out of the meeting. Then, a few months later, they heard their event was not going to be part of the 2020 Diamond League finals at all. “Our sport is about unity and diversity and separating the events can only damage this sport we all love,” said Taylor, who created an athletes’ union called The Athletics Association to combat the changes.

Running off with a piece of history

Eliud Kipchoge created history in Vienna when he smashed the two-hour barrier for the marathon and some spectators fancied taking home some keepsakes by grabbing some of the INEOS 1:59 branded advertising boards that lined the course. The organisers did not seem too bothered as it saved them the job of pulling them all down. Not all of the light-fingered fans kept their goods, though, as some of the boards were spotted for sale on eBay.

PB-friendly footwear

From the Belfast City Marathon being 460m too long to the Leeds Abbey Dash being 23m short, runners chasing PBs were left wondering what might have been at various events in 2019. One way to almost guarantee a fast time, though, was to splash out on a pair of Nike Vaporfly. The controversial shoes were one of the biggest talking points in the sport this year with statistics suggesting they offer several minutes’ advantage in a marathon and World Athletics promising to belatedly announce its verdict on them next year.

» If you enjoy quirky stories from the world of athletics, there are plenty in our Dip Finish column near the back of AW magazine every issue

» For more on the latest athletics news, athletics events coverage and athletics updates, check out the AW homepage and our social media channels on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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