Olympic Distractions

Hi SD,

What happens if an Olympic athlete has an itch during competition, or pain from an ill-fitting article of clothing? What happens if the swimmers’ goggles fall off, or a gymnasts’ leotard bunches up or splits?

I assume the Dope will say that they would just keep going and do their best to ignore the discomfort?

But for something legitimate like goggles becoming unsealed and water rushing through (we’ve all had that happen), are the athletes allowed to stop the competition? I would hate to see someone like Michael Phelps, who has worked his whole life to achieve this level of excellence, have to deal with a stupid problem like a bad swim cap or broken goggles on the big night. Years of training could be ruined by something so easily fixable. Things happen. I guess you have to have better luck than anyone else…it just seems really sad that you have only one shot for everything to go right. Is one competition really the best judge of someone’s natural ability? I’d hate to win a gold knowing I was only there because someone else had bad luck (who knows…a cold, a headache the day of, etc.) OR win a silver knowing I was the best athlete and didn’t win because of shitty luck that was out of my control.


I’m not sure if you’re joking, but Phelps did get water in his goggles and was pretty much blind for the whole race, 8 years ago. He set a world record anyway.

The beach volleyball women are continuously adjusting their bottoms due to their skimpy attire.

I’m guessing it depends on the event and the refs/judges. I can’t site specifics, but I know I’ve seen skiers and such lose due to equipment malfunctions with no recourse. However, just google Tonya Harding-broken lace and you’ll see that she was able to redo her routine after fixing her skate (parodied on Seinfeld).

I am not joking. Thanks for that info, but I didn’t know my question was so stupid. Maybe I should amend my question to: Have any Olympic athletes publicly blamed their poor performance on issues out of their control?
As to the beach volleyball women, I understand, but everyone is doing it, so my guess it impacts the athletes roughly the same.

From what I’ve seen, “wardrobe failure” or equipment malfunction is part of the sport. You live with it, or deal with it as best you can. On the cross-country bike event, there seemed to be a number of competitors pulled over to have wheels fixed, etc.- no special allowances. If you break your leg, I guess you’re out (Or your collar bone, or concussion, while cycling).

I recall a discussion several Olympics ago about the women’s high dive when they were first putting in the underwater cameras, that they would have to have some sort of delay or something in the event of a particular wardrobe malfunction.

One of the lesser funded gymnasts or swimmers the other day they mentioned had to phone her regular coach long distance for advice what to do about her suit - she put her fingernail through it while suiting up. They didn’t say what she did in the end, but presumably she lived with it. (I would have suggested put some of that athletic tape on the inside of it.)

it’s all part of the sport. As has been noted often, there’s no “jock itch timeout” in Major League Baseball.

Oh yeah, things happen. Actually,Phelps DID have a ‘wardrobe issue’, or eqpt malfunction, as it were, during this Olympiad. During the 4x200m freestyle relay, just after the third swimmer began his 200m, Phelps’ swim cap ripped into unusability. He got a cap from a teammate who had already finished his part, and Phelps went on to do his thing in a timely manner.

I bet that if he was unable to procure a replacement hat, he would have had to swim without one. Just a guess, though. I’d imagine there are guidelines for judgement calls on severity of malfunction that involve do-overs or restarting an event. If Phelps was to have been capless, I would imagine that the race would go on and results be official. Just my opinion, though.

In a solo event, like Harding’s, a restart is feasible and not inherently unfair.

In a race it’s quite a different matter. It affects multiple people, and unfairly – it’s pretty much a given that they won’t get their best times after already expending energy on a false start. I can’t imagine anyone even considering restarting a race due to one athlete’s clothing or equipment problem.

Good luck helps but good luck is often the result of intensive preparation in all aspects, including choosing and adjusting clothing – before starting – so that it won’t bunch up.

[coach’s voice]
“You’d better not touch…certain parts of your body.”[/coach’s voice]

Kerri Strug … true champions endure …

In the 1996 Games, Kerri hurt her ankle on her first vault during the Women’s Gymnastics Team competition. She limped back to the start and nailed her second vault for the Gold medal. She had to be carried off the floor because of her ankle injury, very famous scene. YouTube video

Not Olympics, but another goggle-related problem. The skier Bode Miller’s coach blamed his missing a gate on the fact that his googles had misted/frozen up and he couldn’t see properly: Bangor Daily News - Google News Archive Search

Also while we’re talking winning despite equipment failures, Usain Bolt won his Olympic gold in Beijing with an untied shoelace. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/bolt-wins-100m-with-untied-shoe/story-e6frg6n6-1111117216578

I remember reading an interview of a female gymnast several years ago; don’t remember who it was but she was famous enough at the time that I (totally uninterested in sports) recognized her name.

She said gymnasts would get a point deduction for adjusting their costume during a performance so the girls use an adhesive called Sticky Buns to glue the suit to their butt. She also said she and lots of the other girls would prefer to perform nude so they weren’t affected by costumes.

If I could remember her name, I would vote for her. Internet searches for nude gymnasts isn’t finding me that interview.

Look up the 2000 Olympics and Simon Whitfield.
He was one of 15 cyclists who crashed during that portion of the race.
He was also wearing a brand new body suit that he’d received the previous day.
After the swimming, the suit started to shrink as it dried. He had to unzip it to run.

He won gold, and set a record that lasted for 12 years.

On the other hand, there are loads of competitors who fail because they can’t deal with issues.
Again in 2000, 100m sprint champion Donovan Bailey had to drop out of the Olympics because he had pneumonia.

Cathy Rigby was a proponent of nude gymnastics.

Definite possibility; I do recognize her name.

In a race, what if someone who’s losing stops abruptly saying his googles are fogged up and wants a do-over? That’d be a great way to try again, over and over, which would be totally unworkable since the last place racer might always want to restart.

Moderator Action

Since this is about Olympic sports, let’s move it to the Game Room (from General Questions).

I call do-over!
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In the 2012 Olympics 10m men’s platform final, Tom Daley got a mediocre score of 70-something on his first dive for hitting the water short of vertical and making a pretty sizeable splash. He and his coach immediately made a protest to a FINA official that illegal flash photography from the crowd while he was in mid-air (which the TV replay confirmed) had disoriented him and caused him to lose his visual references on how close he was to the water. They made a “Listen again, morons”-type announcement to the crowd about photography and gave him a re-dive–he went over 90 points the second time and eventually got a bronze medal.

Interestingly, during the 3m springboard synchro final a few days ago, some bright floodlights on an automatic timer went on just prior to the Mexican dive–they protested and asked for a re-dive and were denied. I don’t know what the difference was; maybe because it was before the dive instead of during?

A Spanish swimmer also false-started during a 400 freestyle heat earlier this week, went back to the dressing room in floods of tears thinking he was DQ’ed, and the judges decided there had been some kind of distracting noise from the crowd and brought him back out.

Different kinds of distractions, I guess, but it seems like there is leeway for certain things depending on the circumstance and sport.

Not as strongly as I am.