Mayor Rudolph Guiliani presents Danny Almonte with the keys to New York City.
Photo: Getty Images
Having the media expose your love life would be embarrassing. But having it expose your lack of one would be even worse. Such has been the plight of one Manti T'eo, a talented Notre Dame linebacker who dedicated many victories to his dead ex-girlfriend. But the real story, journalists recently revealed, is even more tragic: T'eo never actually met his leukaemia-stricken loved one. This was largely because she didn't exist.
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about," says T'eo (with perfect accuracy), "but ... I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
Poor fella. Here, if it helps, are six other sporting hoaxes. Because everyone's a sucker, sometimes.
6. Sidd Finch, sporting prodigy
"He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd's deciding about yoga - and his future in baseball." That was the subheading of "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch", an article in the 1 April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated that sent several baseball recruiters into a frenzy. Everybody wanted to get their hands on this Tibet-based baseball prodigy, who could apparently throw a fastball at a world-record 270kmh, when he wasn't studying the "yogic mastery of mind-body". But nobody bothered to take the first letter of each word in the subtitle, and see what just they spelled out. "Happy Aprils Fools Day - ah fib".
5. Danny Almonte, little big man
Boys will be boys, as the saying goes - but what if they're teenagers instead? American baseball fans were electrified in 2001, when a little boy took the Little League by storm. Twelve-year-old Danny Almonte looked like the next big thing during during the Underage World Series, when he pitched a series of perfect games. But then it turned out that he was an illegal 14. "I hope he's doing OK. I really do. I always felt he was as much victimised as anybody," says Little League president Stephen Keener 12 years on. "He's the one that's always going to have to deal with, 'Oh, you're Danny Almonte.' It's a bit unfair to him, too."
4. Rosie Ruiz, marathon woman
The 1980 Boston Marathon was won in spectacular style. Rosie Ruiz broke the tape after just 2.5 hours - the third-fastest time ever recorded - and she barely even broke a sweat. "I just got up with a lot of energy this morning," said the previously unknown Cuban, breathing lightly and with eyes shining brightly, as fresh-faced and bubbly as when she began. There was, you may not be altogether surprised to learn, a good reason for this. Its name was public transport.
3. Boris Onishchenko, thinker
"Reposte", "parry", "flèche", "flunge": these are all fencing terms that you don't need to know. Essentially all fencers are trying to do is touch their opponent with the tip of your sword, whereupon a buzzer goes off and they get a point. The only one who doesn't conform to this rule was a Russian named Boris Onishchenko. At the Olympics in 1976, he discovered that, by smuggling in an electric device, he could make the buzzer go off without touching a thing.
2. Trodmore, win less
In 1898, Mr G Martin of Cornwall wrote to the editors of The Sportsman and asked them to cover an upcoming race. He supplied the odds of the horses that were due to run the Trodmore Hunt Steeplechase, and many readers duly placed their bets. A few weeks later, he advised that the favourite had won and many bookies duly paid out. It was quite a while before someone realised that Reaper hadn’t, in fact, won - or, indeed, even raced. There was no such thing as the Trodmore Hunt Steeplechase. There wasn't even a place called Trodmore.
1. Mind games
Some Paralympians are pretty amazing. "There were two or three players ... who could have competed in our national basketball league," said an Australian of the Spanish basketball team which took out the gold medal in the intellectual disability division in 2000. "What they did with and without the ball was way above what any of our athletes could have achieved." There were doubtless a number of reasons for the team's success - grit, heart, good coaching, and so on - but one of them rather stands out. As a journalist later revealed, most of the players weren't disabled at all.
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