Aleksandr Karelin and Rulon Gardner do battle in the gold medal match at the Sydney Olympics
Photo: Getty Images
SIX THINGS: After the shock of Australia's fourth place in the 4x100m freestyle relay, here are some of history's biggest Olympic upsets...
Shane Kelly's foot slips (Atlanta, 1996)
Heading into Atlanta, Kelly was hoping that the old sporting saying 'you have to lose one to win one' would apply to him. He took home silver in the 1000m time trial in Barcelona four years earlier, and as the world champion in the same event at the time of Atlanta, was widely tipped to win gold. Devastatingly, Kelly's foot slipped off the pedal at the start of his ride, and he received a disqualification. Sadly for Olympians, there is no next week, but rather a four-year wait to make amends for such mistakes. Kelly won a bronze in the 1000m time trial at Sydney and in the keirin in Athens, but gold never came his way.
Cold war on the basketball court (Munich, 1972)
The US had never lost an Olympic match, boasting a 63-0 record when they faced the USSR in the final in Munich. The gold medal match was a close affair and the Soviets led 49-48 with less than 10 seconds to play. Team USA's Doug Collins earned two free throws with only three seconds to go and he landed both, seemingly assuring his nation of victory. However, the USSR was granted a controversial time-out with one second to play. A hopeless situation? No. FIBA president William Jones then ordered the time clock to be reset to three seconds and the match was restarted. No points were added, and the US believed they had victory. However, the clock had not been adjusted when play recommenced, so another restart was requested. Amid desperate protests and timid defending from the Americans, the Soviets scored with a simple lay-up to claim a controversial victory.
Team USA's subsequent appeal was rejected 3-2 by a five-man panel that included Communist nations Cuba, Poland and the USSR. The furious Americans boycotted the medal ceremony, leaving the number two position on the podium empty. The medals remain unclaimed to this day. Billy Mills shocks Ron Clarke (Tokyo, 1964)
Clarke was the world's dominant figure over 10,000 metres in 1964 as world record holder and was predicted to claim gold in Tokyo. American Mills wasn't rated a contender leading into the race. All appeared to be going according to script for much of the race, with Clarke out in front. However, Mills and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia managed to stay on his tail. As the runners headed for the finish line, Gammoudi hit the front but Mills was able to sprint to the line and snare a remarkable victory. Today, he is still the only athlete from the US, a country more renowned for their prowess across the shorter distances, to have won gold in the 10,000 metres. Clarke had to settle for bronze.
British sprinters prove there's no 'i' in team (Athens, 2004)
If you ever want proof that a champion team will always prevail over a team of champions, look no further than Great Britain's victory over the USA in the 4x100m track relay at the Athens 2004 Olympics. America boasted a star-studded quartet - Justin Gatlin, Maurice Greene, Shawn Crawford and Coby Miller. Gatlin, Greene and Crawford finished first, third and fourth respectively in the individual 100m race, all crossing the line in under 9.9 seconds. By comparison, Great Britain didn't even have a competitor in that final, and the quickest of the Brits from the heats ran 10.12. America was the overwhelming favourite to claim gold, but Gatlin's passing of the baton to Miller put them on the back foot at the end of the second leg. Great Britain capitalised on their mistake, with Mark Lewis-Francis staving off a late charge from Greene on the last leg to win.
Rulon v Goliath (Sydney, 2000)
Russia's Aleksandr Karelin had won Greco-Roman wrestling gold medals at Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, and was a lay down misere to do so in Sydney. Karelin had won every event in which he participated for the previous 12 years. For the last six of those, he didn't even concede a point. Karelin went up against America's Rulon Gardner in the 130kg final. Gardner used his power to chip away at Karelin, and the Russian tired as a result. Gardner managed to stay on level ground with Karelin as the opening round was locked in a stalemate. In the second round, Gardner took the only point of the match, and did enough to win. Karelin hadn't lost previously in an international match and didn't lose again.
Hard landing for US softballers (Beijing, 2008)
While not publicly confirmed, the reason softball lost its Olympic status was likely because of the USA's ongoing dominance. The IOC came to that judgement in 2005, and the sport isn't on the program at London 2012. However, it did have one last hurrah at Beijing in 2008. USA took home gold in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens (the sport's only other Olympic appearances) and were odds-on to do so in Beijing. Japan weren't expected to pose a problem for the Americans in the gold medal match, with the USA having won their two earlier encounters in the tournament 9-0 and 4-1. But Japan's Yukiko Ueno was the hero, keeping America to a single run with a brilliant pitching performance to inspire Japan to a 3-1 victory.
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