Hampered by a Picnic

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Jamie wasn't the first athlete to fall victim to the dreaded picnic hamper.

Ever since Jamie dropped out of the 50 km walk last week to “protect his softball season”, I’ve been trying to remember where I’d read about something similar happening before in an Olympic games. Finally, I found the story I was looking for in Geoff Tibballs’ book The Olympics’ Strangest Moments.

‘The 1912 Olympic marathon [in Stockholm] more than lived up to the reputation for drama set by its predecessors. Run in unusually hot conditions for Scandinavia, it witnessed the first Olympic death, a victory marred by accusations of broken promises and, most bizarrely of all, a runner who dropped out halfway to join a family picnic!

‘… Further down the field [Shizo] Kanaguri was struggling to cope with the heat. In a state of near collapse he stumbled into the garden of a Swedish family who were enjoying a picnic on that glorious summer afternoon. Invited to join the gathering, he needed no second invitation and, after being refreshed with drinks of raspberry juice, he accepted their generous offer of a bed on which to lay his weary head.

‘When he awoke, it was far too late to rejoin the race and so the family gave him clothing and put him on a train back to Stockholm. Embarrassed at having failed to complete the marathon, he decided not to tell anyone and quietly caught a boat back to Japan.’

Sadly, the day after the marathon, The Portuguese record holder, Francisco Lazaro, died in hospital having collapsed during the race.

‘While the Olympic fraternity mourned the loss of Lazaro, officials were trying to locate the other 33 runners who had failed to finish because of the extreme heat. All were accounted for except one – Shizo Kanaguri. Unaware that he had fled the country, the officials called in the Swedish police in a bid to find him and when the search proved fruitless, he was officially declared a missing person.

‘Kanaguri’s whereabouts became something of a joke in Sweden – akin to sightings of Lord Lucan in Britain in the 1970s – and some claimed he was still running around the streets trying to find his way back to the stadium. Other ‘sightings’ revealed that he had last been seen with a beautiful Swedish girl on each arm.

‘In 1962, on the fiftieth anniversary of the race, a Stockholm journalist was despatched o Japan to track down the elusive runner and found him teaching geography in the town of Tamana. Kanaguri had no idea that he had achieved cult status in Sweden.

‘Five years later, at the age of 76, he returned to Stockholm to open a new department store. From there he was taken to the Olympic stadium where, to the delight of the Swedes, he finally jogged across the finish line… to complete a marathon that he had begun 55 years earlier.’

There’s a lesson there for us all.

But I’m not sure what it is.


Statue John said...

Running a marathon or doing a 50km walk.


A picnic

There really isn't that much to think about eh?! As long as there's plenty of jam in the picnic hamper.

Anonymous said...

I had to read about this in my college Japanese class.
It makes much more sense in English. ^_^;;
Then again, I didn't really believe what I was reading. 55 years? Holy crap.