Track & Field

Funniest moments in athletics, part two; drunks, fighters and strippers

5) Haile questionable sportsmanship

It’s the 10,000m final at the World Junior Championship in 1992 and Kenya’s Josephat Machuka has had just about enough of leading an Ethiopian kid around for the best part of 25 laps, only to have him blast by down the home straight. He’s mad as hell and not going to take it any more, so he does this. In fairness, at least it was Gebrselassie who was speeding past. No shame in being beaten by the best, Josephat.

4) Hurdles? What hurdles?

There are no words, only tears… of laughter. Someone buy this man a pint.


3) Walker this way: into a pile of hurdles

He was the greatest, Berlino. He was to the championship mascots what Diego Maradona was to football: a genius who may have had a few imperfections but will still be remembered for his brilliance. Among his many antics of the week in Berlin in 2009 was this gem; after Melaine Walker bagged a world title in the 400m hurdles, Berlino hoisted her up on his back and, with little visibility in his giant bear costume, took off down the track. What could possibly go wrong?

2) The topless wonder

It’s the European 3,000m steeplechase final, you’re way out in front coming into the home straight, so what better way to celebrate your achievement than by ripping off your singlet, holding it in your teeth, and running the last 100m topless? Only problem for Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad was this: it broke the rules, as his number wasn’t visible while crossing the line, and the Frenchman was duly DQ’d for his banter-filled behaviour. When asked about the criticism he’d received in the days that followed, Mekhissi said: “these people, they know nothing about the sport and only come here to eat chips.”

1) What do we do with the drunken jumper?

It was the Athletissima meeting in Lausanne, towards the end of the summer season in 2008, and Ivan Ukhov did his best Boris Yeltsin impression and reported for duty off-his-face drunk. Hilarity ensued, with Ukhov’s attempted jump going on to become a YouTube hit.

Pavel Voronkov, his manager, said: “There’s no denying that Ivan was drunk but he had a fight with his girlfriend and was also upset at failing to qualify for the Olympics.” Four years later, the joke was on Ukhov, as he became Olympic champion in London.

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Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy is a freelance journalist, a once-serious, now-retired athlete who writes for a number of international publications in the running industry. He previously worked for the Sunday Tribune, Irish Runner magazine and has written for the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and the Guardian. He is also a regular contributor to Runner's World.
His banter levels are often poor, occasionally exceptional.

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