Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Results for Wednesday, August 25

Athletics: Surprisingly few results to report here today: lots of heats, few finals. Women's 400-metre hurdles: Klodiana Shala of Albania had the slowest result in the heats with the improbable time of 1:00.00 -- one minute even. The winner's final time was 52.82 seconds. Women's hammer throw: Marina Lapina of Azerbaijan had the lowest result in the qualifying rounds, with a best throw of 55.34. The winner's best throw in the final was 75.02 metres. Women's 200-metre: Gladys Thompson of Liberia had a heat time of 27.51 seconds, about 5½ seconds behind the winning final time of 22.05 seconds.

Baseball: Both Italy and Greece finished the prelims with a 1-6 record, but Italy takes last place because it had fewer runs scored and more runs scored against.

Cycling wrapped up today. In the women's points race, Lyudmyla Vypyraylo of Ukraine finished 18th; the bottom three finishers and one DNF each lost a lap after a sprint and finished with negative points. In the men's madison, Oleg Grishkin and Alexey Shmidt finished 17th with one lap point (compared to the winners' 22); there was one DNF. I'm not sure it's possible to figure out a last-place finisher in the men's keirin -- or am I mistaken?

Equestrian: In individual dressage, Gerta Lehmann, riding "Louis" for Greece, finished 51st in the grand prix and did not advance to the grand prix special. Her score was an even 60 per cent; the winner's average after the grand prix freestyle was 79.278 per cent.

Sailing: The last races in the mistral categories were run today. On the men's side, Martin Lapos of Slovakia was 34th after 11 races; on the women's side, Karla Barrera of Puerto Rico was 26th.

Synchronized Swimming: Australia's Amanda Laird and Leonie Nichols finished 24th in the preliminaries; only the top 12 advanced to the finals. If I'm reading the scores right, their score of 38.834 was 10.75 points behind the leaders' score at that stage.

Triathlon: In the women's triathlon, Delphine Pelletier of France finished 44th with a time of 2:22:39.28. That's about a minute behind the next-to-last-place finisher and 17:55.83 behind the winner. Four competitors did not finish after completing the swimming leg, one did not finish after completing the cycling leg, and one was overlapped during the cycling.

Weightlifting: The final weightlifting event was the +105 kg men's category, where Itte Detenamo of Nauru lifted a mere 347.5 kg. The winner's combined total was 472.5 kg. There were three DNFs.

Standings to date: (You all know about the number of athletes being recalibrated, right?) Greece leapfrogs Poland to move into second place, threatening China's lead. Australia and France make the top 5, while Slovakia and Ukraine make big jumps up the standings.

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Reader Mail Egoboo

Positive feedback is a wonderful motivator; I hope you don't mind if I share some. I wasn't sure whether people would get what I was trying to do -- i.e., have a little fun, but not at the athletes' expense. The idea was to be light-hearted, not mean spirited. I'm relieved to see, from your e-mails, that I didn't screw up.

Allison Dakin writes from Australia:
Way to go! I totally understand what you are doing! No-one at the Olympics are losers! They all had to win and work bloody hard to get there in the first place!

I am a Aussie so even though we love our sportspeople to win we also champion the underdog!
Tony Simmons, who runs a turtle rescue in Texas:
It seems that we have a couple of things in common, our love for reptiles and our respect for the human spirit. I've really enjoyed looking through your site. Reading through these stories has bolstered my faith in humanity.

Thank you for pointing out that finishing last doesn't make anyone a loser.
Expatriate Canadian Danny Curylo writes:
I just wanted to thank you for providing an insight into the games that truly epitomizes the spirit of sport. As a Canadian living in the US *groan* I have become bitter with pathetic NBC coverage of the games and the damn arrogance of US athletes and broadcasters. Only a Canadian could appreciate the value of participation for the great accomplishment it is. Thank you, and I look forward to the 2006 Winter DFL blog.
And an initially skeptical Graham Lockley writes:
Just to let you know, I followed the link from El Reg to your site thinking that it would be a typical "scoffers" kind of place but the tag at the top (Because they're there, and you're not) said volumes about your attitude. Still not sure about the central idea of your site but will give you plenty credit for appreciating that those who came last at least DID compete.

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Worst Olympic Performances

Here's a page listing the all-time worst performances in the Olympics. (Of course, the worst at the Olympics is still much better than the rest of us could ever hope to do.)

I found that page via an excellent blog called Runner-Up ("Where Seconds Count"), which looks at "non-winners" -- i.e., everything from second to last -- in many different events. Definitely a kindred spirit, and one well worth keeping an eye on after DFL shuts down at the end of the Olympics.


Standings Revised

Many of you pointed out that the numbers of athletes per country listed in the standings table were wrong. I've now corrected the table, using, per this suggestion, the numbers from the Yahoo! Sports page. Hopefully this will be a bit more accurate, but I know it's not perfect. For some reason, no athletes from Palestine are listed in that database; I've even put in the names of the two athletes with last-place finishes and it came up empty. So I'll list them as having four athletes, which is what the other database said, even though that may not be correct. It's better than having a division by zero error in the standings!

There have been lots of little movements up and down in the standings, too many to mention here. Have a look and see what's changed.

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DFL in the News

I'm overwhelmed by the amount of media coverage this little project has been receiving. As a friend just said to me, "And here, I bet, you thought you were just arseing around with a new blog, for lack of anything better to do!" Um, yeah.

The Reuters story has now been picked up by Terra in Brazil and Sify in India. Agence France-Presse filed a report too -- I like some of the quotes they used -- and it's been getting around: in South Africa, it's on the web sites of the Independent, the Mail and Guardian and News 24; it's on the web site of Singapore's Channel NewsAsia; it even made the Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates! (Never underestimate the power of the wire services.)

Even the tech news site The Register has a story about DFL -- next stop: Slashdot!

(The National Post reporter contacted me to say that the story, which I referred to earlier, has been held for a couple of days and might run tomorrow.)

I've received a number of media inquiries and I'll do my best to reply to them as soon as I can. I used to be a reporter myself so I understand your needs. In the meantime, reporters would do well to look at the following posts: Welcome to DFL; A DFL Primer; Reuters, Lovable Losers, and a Rant About the Media. That should tide you over until I get a chance to talk to you.

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Reader Mail: Athlete Numbers

I've gotten a couple of e-mails questioning the numbers of athletes in each Olympic delegation that I've listed in the standings table at right. Chris writes,
Where's that info from? I read that the Australian team was the 2nd biggest at 482 competitors. Does your figure include support staff and admin/management ? Just asking . . .
And Joyce asks the same thing:
Curious as to how you came up with your counts for number of athletes. You list Greece as having 966 athletes, but a web site lists only 441 and Canada you list as 555 but I saw an article that says 262. Officially the US says it sent 531 but you credit 1,558?
If my numbers are wrong I'd love to get them corrected, so if you know where I can find the information, and you can point me to it or send it to me, I'd be eternally grateful.

At the moment, the athlete numbers are taken from this page on the Athens 2004 site: I search by national Olympic committee and take the number of hits returned. It's quick and dirty, and I suppose it's possible that there are duplicate entries. (To be honest, I haven't cross-checked all 1,558 American listings.) I was pointed to this page after I posted a question in Ask MetaFilter (from whence all blessings flow) about where to find such data.

Corrections are always welcome, but please don't take these standings too seriously -- they're far too incomplete (so many events without last-place finishers, you know), and the ties are broken too arbitrarily.

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Justin Wilcock

I have the best readers. From the comments, you've provided more information on what happened to American diver Justin Wilcock in the men's 3-metre springboard:
Justin Wilcock had some kind of back stress fracture that was apparently so painful that he almost dropped out. He did all of his dives despite not being able to turn his body much at all -- the 0 score was from a "failed dive", which is what an athlete gets for not completing all of the turns/somersaults stated up front.
And in another comment, a link to Justin's diary, where he writes about it. I suffer from chronic back pain myself, so boy I can empathize; actually, I'm amazed he was able to compete at all. That's character -- I couldn't have done it myself.

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Correction: Women's 5,000 Metre

Oops. While Sonia O'Sullivan finished last in the women's 5,000-metre final (see previous entries: The Irish Times on Sonia O'Sullivan, Results for Tuesday, August 24), I somehow overlooked the fact that there were also qualifying heats. The slowest time for the women's 5,000-metre was, in fact, put in by Francine Niyonizigiye of Burundi in heat 1 -- 17:21.27, compared with the winner's final time of 14:45.65. Sonia's story is compelling but she was not, in fact, DFL. Sorry about that. (Thanks to this anonymous commenter for pointing this out.)

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The Irish Times on Sonia O'Sullivan

The Irish Times has an essay by Keith Duggan on the last-place finish of Sonia O'Sullivan in Monday's women's 5,000-metre final. Via Eamonn Fitzgerald, who has some extremely nice things to say about DFL.

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Results for Tuesday, August 24

Athletics: Women's 5,000 metre: This should have been in yesterday's results, but I somehow missed it. Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland finished 14th with a time of 16:20.90, more than a minute behind the next-to-last finisher and about 95 seconds behind the leader; she appears to have trailed badly at the end. There was one DNF. [Correction] Women's pole vault: Alejandra García of Argentina and Silke Spiegelburg of Germany tied for 13th place with a jump of 4.20 metres on the third attempt; the twelfth-place finisher also vaulted 4.20 but did so on the second attempt, and as a result was ranked higher. The winner vaulted 4.91 metres; one athlete failed to clear the minimum height and received no mark. Men's 3,000-metre steeplechase: In show jumping for humans, Polish runner Jakub Czaja's time of 8:56.24 was the slowest in the heats; the winner's final time was 8:05.81. There were two DNSes and one DNF in the heats. Women's 100-metre hurdles: Canadians may be bemoaning the result in the final (we're very good at bemoaning, actually), but the slowest time in the heats was put in by Maria Joelle Conjungo of the Central African Republic -- 14.24 seconds, compared with the winner's time of 12.37 seconds in the final. Women's 400 metre: Libyan runner Ruwita El Hubti's time of 1:03.57 was the slowest in the heats, but two other runners put in times in excess of a minute. The winner's final time was 49.41 seconds. Men's decathlon: Of 30 athletes competing, Victor Covalenko of Moldova had the lowest score, 6,543 points. The winner had 8,893 points. Victor was the only competitor to score fewer than 7,000 points, but hey, this is the decathlon, okay? Men's 1,500 metre: Despite media expectations that he would be the next Eric the Eel, Robert Caraciolo Mandje did not finish DFL in this event. I'm pleased to report that he came in third-last. (I love it when expectations are confounded.) Instead, Jimmy Anak Ahar of Brunei Darussalam put in the slowest heat time of 4:14.11. Each of the three slowest runners put in times above four minutes; the winner's final time was 3:34.18.

Cycling: In the men's points race, Wong Kam-Po of Hong Kong finished 20th with two points, compared to the winner's 93. Three competitors did not finish. In the women's sprint qualifying round, Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria finished 12th with a time of 12.457 seconds and a speed of 57.798 km/h; the winner's time and speed in the qualifying were 11.291 seconds and 63.767 km/h, respectively. And in the qualifyings for the men's sprint, German cyclist Stefan Nimke finished 19th (11.338 seconds, 63.503 km/h; the winner's results were 10.177 seconds and 70.747 km/h in the qualifyings).

Diving: The men's 3-metre springboard wrapped up today; in the preliminaries yesterday, Justin Wilcock of the United States finished 32nd with a score of 225.87, 291.72 behind the leader in that round. Justin received a score of zero for his fifth dive, so something unfortunate must have happened, but he was trailing throughout.

Equestrian: They awarded the team jumping medals today; Mexico had the most penalties -- 70 -- after the first round and, like the other teams that did not make the top 10, did not advance to the second round.

Weightlifting started with little tiny people hauling giant weights; now the guys are getting much bigger. And the weights much heavier. Today it was the men's 105-kg class, and Eleei Ilalio of American Samoa was 16th, lifting a total of 295 kg. The winner lifted a combined total of 425 kg, and all but the bottom two were within a few kilos of 400. Six lifters were DNF; all of them trying to lift more weight than Eleei did -- and failing at it.

Standings to date: Poland moves into second place and Bulgaria and Germany make big moves up the board. But the big story is Brunei Darussalam, whose single athlete finished last in his single event. That means that Brunei has scored a perfect 100 per cent in the last-place sweepstakes -- though I suppose that percentages greater than 100 are theoretically possible if an athlete enters, and finishes last in, more than one event. Still!

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Reader Mail

Meredith writes,
I know what DFL means but it'd be nice if you mentioned it on your "welcome to DFL" page since the term is a common slang saying among athletes but is destined to leave "common folk" scratching their head in wonderment.
Good point -- I've been trying to underplay it because I figured that if the media got hold of it, they'd have a hard time with the naughty word. The D stands for "dead", the L stands for "last", and the F is obvious.

The standings table on the sidebar is getting all sorts of suggestions. Steve thinks I should break the ties in the opposite order, with larger teams ranked higher. Katie and Alfredo want me to display the countries' score as a percentage of last-place finishers versus athletes. For example, São Tomé and Príncipe has one last-place finish and three athletes at the Games, so their score would be 33.3 per cent, whereas China, with 800-plus athletes, would have a much smaller percentage score even if it has the most last-place finishes. This is an excellent idea (so of course I'd been thinking along the same lines, ha). The only problem is that for team sports, I'd have to factor in the size of the teams: if the men's eights rowing team finishes last, for example, it's actually nine athletes (including the coxswain) out of n, rather than a single last-place finish. I might do something along those lines at the end for just those countries whose scores would end up being more than a few percentage points. Still thinking about it.

Jodi sends a nice note about my decision to include the paralympic events in Sunday's athletics results:
Thank you SO much for publishing info on the wheelchair athletes. As a wheelchair user, it makes me sick the way they don't give these athletes as much coverage as their "able-bodied" counterparts. These athletes work just as hard if not harder for what they do.
I figured that what wheelchair athletes wanted more than anything else was to be treated like any other athlete; subjecting them to the cruel lash of DFL was, oddly enough, the right thing to do.

Finally, I think X Garlaza is a little upset about the Portuguese football (note: soccer) team: he wants them listed here even before the final game is played!

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