Human beings have been intertwined with sports since the Ancient world, thousands of years ago. Determination, resilience, and excellence are examples of some of the virtues that have been exemplified in the world of sports. But so has vices such as deception and malice, which are as old as human nature. That said, beyond all the great sports stories that involve world-famous athletes, there are thousands of other stories, though not as popular, are none the less mind-blowing. Here are ten such astonishing stories.
Paralympian table tennis player with no arms
Ibrahim Hamadtou is a table tennis player for the Egyptian national team. But he unlike any other table tennis player. At the age of 10 years, he was involved in a train accident, and when he woke up from the coma, he found that both his arms had been amputated. As it was expected, this had a significant toll on him. But one day, he walked into the youth center in his village and saw people playing table tennis; something lit up in him. But there was only one problem —he had no arms! After trying multiple times to hold the paddle with his armpits and failing, he thought to himself, "Why don't I try playing with my mouth?" And that's where it all began. He's been playing table tennis with his mouth for more than 30 years now. In the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, though he lost his final match, he was in the limelight as one of the world's most inspiring athletes.
UEFA Euro 2004 Underdog Triumph
Though soccer is the most popular sport in Greece, the country's impact on the international football scene had been minuscule for decades. But all that changed during the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship. The Greece national team came into the tournament as one of the weakest teams. Their odds to win stood at 1-100. However, the team opened the tournamen in stunning fashion defeating Portugal 2-1. Though they barely made it through the group stage, they went one to shock everyone by making it all the way to the finals. But that wasn't the end. In what can arguably be the most unbelievable underdog story in soccer history, the Greeks stunned the 50,000 fans in attendance with a 1-0 win against heavily favored tournament hosts Portugal. Underdog sports stories are very popular for one obvious fact—they inspire us. We can see ourselves in these players or teams and are encouraged that even our greatest dreams can come to pass.
100-year-old Gold medalist
It would come as a shock to anyone how a 100-year-old woman can run a 100-meter sprint in just over 1 minute. But that precisely what Man Kaur has done over and over again. She's the oldest and the fastest centenarian woman athlete and has won 31 international gold medals. Her most recent conquest was the 2019 World Masters Athletics Championships in Poland, where she won gold in all four events she competed in: shot put, javelin, 60-meter dash, and 200-meter run. Man Kaur started running back in 2009 when she was 93, following her son's encouragement. Not a fan of junk food at all, Man Kaur encourages young women to maintain a healthy diet so as to limit any health issues in the latter part of life. Her achievements are proof that anyone can achieve newer things in life at any age.
Image by Chhavi Sachdev via npr.org
One-armed world-class surfer
At the age of 13, as a rising surf star, Bethany Hamilton suffered a terrible tragedy—she lost her left arm to a 14-foot tiger shark attack. For many people, this would have spelled the end of their dream, but not Bethany. Less than a month later, she was back on the surfboard! This was only the beginning of her incredible journey to accomplish her lifelong dream of being a professional surfer. She overcame every obstacle that was laid her way by her disability and achieved her goal when she became a professional surfer at 17. Since then, she has accomplished incredible feats, such as beating a six-time world champion in 2014 and winning several major competitions. In 2017, she was inducted into the Surfer's Hall of Fame, and she's now ranked among the top 50 female surfers in the world. Her story of resilience and determination has been a source of great inspiration to millions of people across the globe.
Best pound for pound boxer in the world
Thought of by some as one of the best boxers in the world, Manny Pacquiao's life wasn't always smooth sailing. The world-famous boxer grew up in a low-income family and struggled to meet his basic needs through his childhood growing up in the Philippines. At the young age of 16, Pacquiao discovered his true gift for boxing. He started setting up open-for-all boxing matches in his hometown and beat every opponent who faced him. He soon left home and moved to Manila. As the fights got more serious, the more famous he got. He would beat fighters from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and at the very young age of 19, he won his first World Champion title. Pacquiao has made history over his illustrious career by being the first boxer ever to win world titles in eight weight divisions. He's also won twelve major world titles and is the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes.
The darts prodigy
Michael van Gerwen is currently the number one ranked darts player in the world. He has won three PDC World Championships, a World Masters, two World Matchplay and five World Grand Prix. Ask anyone who loves the sport, and you will hear hours on end how this is the most extraordinary thing in the world. And Michael's achievements are truly remarkable. In his early years as a teenager, Michael was unaware of his immense darting talent and instead wanted to become a great soccer player. But he quickly realized his soccer career wasn't meant to be. At the age of 13, Van Gerwen hung up his boots and swapped leather for tungsten after his father bought him a dartboard. He quickly became good at the game and started to win a lot of youth tournaments he participated in. Less than two years later, he was winning international tournaments and setting new records. As they say, the rest is history.
Not all famous sports stories are inspiring; in fact, some of the most popular ones often involve deception, malice, and outright violence. The last four stories on our list feature such detestable behavior.
Luis Resto rock hard boxing gloves
This is one of the most unsportsmanlike behaviors in the history of boxing. We all know boxers are often at substantial risk for acute injuries to their heads, but Luis Resto took this risk to an all-new level in his fight against Ray Collins Jr. in 1983. First, Resto's trainer Panama Lewis removed most of the padding from his boxer's gloves before the fight. As if this wasn't bad enough, Resto went on to soak his hand wraps in plaster of Paris(quick-setting paste used for molds and casts). As a result of these two alterations, every blow his opponent Collins Jr. took felt like he was being hit with rocks. Collins Jr.'s injuries from the match were so severe that they ended his boxing career. Both Resto and his trainer Lewis were convicted of conspiracy to fix a sporting event and illegal assault on Collins Jr. They received life bans from participating in any boxing event.
Credit: The Fight Diary
Tennis Darkest Day
Monica Seles was dominating the tennis world in the early 90s, and she had won 7 out of the 8 Grand Slam tournaments she participated in. But during the 1993 Hambourg women's tournament, the world discovered how far a fan's obsession could go. In her 2009 autobiography, Getting a Grip, she says, "I remember sitting there, toweling off, and then I leaned forward to take a sip of water, our time was almost up, and my mouth was dry. The cup had barely touched my lips when I felt a horrible pain in my back. My head whipped around towards where it hurt, and I saw a man wearing a baseball cap, a sneer across his face. His arms were raised above his head, and his hands were clutching a long knife." The attacker who had managed to walk down the pedestrian aisle unnoticed was quickly overpowered by security guards. The eight thousand people in the audience were shocked. The tennis player had just been stabbed in the back in front of their eyes. Luckily, the blade missed the spinal cord, didn't damage any vital organ, and she fully recovered in a few months. But it understandably took Monica two years to step back on the court.
NBA match-fixing referee
Tim Donaghy was an NBA official for 13 seasons from 1994 until 2007 before resigning as an official in July 2007 after being accused of multiple match-fixing incidences. A two-year investigation revealed how disgraced referee Tim Donaghy conspired to fix NBA games.
For more than four years, Tim and his highschool friend Jack Concannon bet on almost every game he officiated. During the investigation, Tim's ex-wife revealed finding huge wads of $100 bills in his clothes. Soon a gambling ring caught up to the two men's scheme and did what could be expected of any unscrupulous gamblers—join in the action! After all, they had possibly just stumbled on the ultimate edge. Some of the gambling ring members started passing the match-fixing information to members of one of the New York organized crime families. Soon after, this info got to the FBI through one of its informants, and it wasn't long before Donaghy's four-year-long cash cow came tumbling down. He ended up serving 15 months in prison due to the scandal, and the NBA has distanced itself from him ever since.
The jockey who took advantage of foggy weather to win a race
One of such is the story of Slyvester Carmouche. During a 1990 horse race at Delta Downs, the track was covered by a thick fog that made it impossible for spectators in the stands to see the horses. Taking advantage of this, Slyvester came up with an ingenious way to win the race. While all the other jockeys took off as soon as they heard the starting gun, Slyvester quietly backed up his horse to the finishing line. There he waited, listening out for his competitors' horses racing around the mile-long track. Once he heard the first horse coming up from behind him, he charged his horse past the finishing line, winning the race easily. Unlucky for him, soon after his win came under scrutiny and his deception was exposed. For one, his horse showed no sign of the physical exertion expected after such a race. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and banned from the sport for ten years.
Many of the athletes listed above have overcome obstacles to prevail and become successful in sports and life. On the other hand, some decided to take shortcuts that always landed them in trouble and often cost them their sporting career. We also threw in a story or two of unscrupulous characters whose impact on the world of sport has been negative, to say the least.