In order to win at the Olympics, you have to train. You have to sacrifice. You have to push to your absolute limits. You have to avoid injuries at the wrong time. Often you have to avoid getting knocked out in the national trials.
Oh, yes, and you have to show up. This tiny little detail has eliminated more than a few potential medalists over the years. The Olympics don't wait around for you. Even if you somehow got bad information as to where you have to be and when, they don't wait around. You're either in uniform and ready to go when they call your name, or they just plain go on without you. They have a schedule to keep and plenty of athletes that did show up on time. Caught in traffic? Alarm didn't go off? Mugged by aliens? Left the cat in the oven? Too bad. Go home. The end. Try again in four years, or if you never get back, hope you enjoyed your Olympic experience.
So today let's remember a few of those who wound up with a DNS on the results sheet.
*The first-ever Olympic entrant from Suriname was Wim Esajas, slated to compete in the men's 800 meters in Rome 1960. He was slated to, at least. However, someone told him that the heats were in the afternoon, so he slept in that morning.
The heats were not in the afternoon.
By the time Esajas showed up, the heats were over and the quarterfinals set. There was nothing he could do but go home. Peter Snell of New Zealand eventually won gold. Eight years later, Suriname tried again with Eddy Monsels in the 100-meter dash in Mexico City 1968. Monsels made it out of the heats- barely- before succumbing in the quarterfinals.
*In the judo competition of Atlanta 1996, David Khakhaleishvili of Georgia came in as the defending heavyweight gold medalist from Barcelona. He was expected to contend for gold again. When it came time for weigh-ins, he made his way to the Georgia World Congress Center, the judo venue. Which would be fine except the weigh-ins were actually being held in the Olympic Village. A mad dash back to the village was too late to prevent the weigh-in from ending before he got there, meaning he was out.
Khakhaleishvili, it should be reiterated, was competing as a heavyweight. That's the unlimited division. He didn't have to slim down or anything. He could have shoved cheesecake into his face all day if he wanted. The officials just needed a number to record and he didn't give that number. With him out, his main competitor, David Doulliet of France, won gold instead, and would do so again four years later in Sydney.
*The 100-meter dash in Munich 1972 ended up suffering from a severe Americandectomy. The heats started on August 31 at 11:09 AM. Quarterfinals were scheduled for 4:15 PM. One American, Lee Evans, was at the track, but he wasn't in the 100 meters. He was in the 4x400-meter relay about a week down the road. And he noticed that the Americans scheduled to run the 100 meters, Eddie Hart, Rey Robinson and Robert Taylor, still hadn't shown up yet. Eventually, he took off for the Olympic Village three-quarters of a mile away to go drag them to the track in time. By the time he got there, though, they were already gone.
But not to the track. The sprinters were under the impression that the quarters weren't until 7 PM, because their coach was using an 18-month-old schedule. Meandering to the stadium, they happened into the broadcasting station of then-American-broadcaster ABC and found the 100 meters on one of the screens. Robinson asked if they were showing a rerun of the preliminaries.
He was told they were live.
The first realization dawned on Robinson quickly: 'Oh, shit.'
The second realization came soon after: 'Oh, shit, THAT'S MY HEAT.'
Robinson's Olympics were over. Hart was in Heat 2. There was too little time for him to make it, but he would eventually make up for it with gold in the 4x100-meter relay. Taylor, though, was able to claim his starting block in Heat 3 just in time. He would eventually win silver. The gold medalist, Valery Borzov of the Soviet Union, also barely made it to the heat; he had slept in too long and had to shove a stadium official aside to get to the track in time. Borzov wound up posting the fastest time of the competition, 10.07 seconds.
Bronze medalist Lennox Miller of Jamaica, in Heat 4, had no such issues.
As for Evans, there's no happy ending for him either. He pulled a hamstring prior to the 4x400-meter relay, and as fellow relayers Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett had been completely disrespectful on the medal stand of the 400 meters- they failed to stand at attention to their national anthem and just chatted to each other, drawing boos from the German crowd, then totally blew their chance to explain themselves when asked. Also Matthews, the gold medalist, took his medal off and twirled it on his finger after coming down from the platform. It all added up to the two being banned from further competition in Munich. With Evans' injury, it left the six-man relay team down to three, not enough to race. The Americans were out of that relay too, and Kenya wound up with gold instead.