Falling hero

Born in Correggio in 1885, Dorando Pietri finished first in the marathon at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, but was subsequently disqualified…


To the sound of a cheering crowd and the sight of much tossing of hats, the diminutive figure of the Italian runner Dorando Pietri entered the newly completed White City Stadium still some way ahead of his nearest rival, the American Johnny Haynes.

But Pietri’s energies were spent.

The weather was hot and Pietri was dehydrated as well as exhausted.

He took a wrong turn on his way to the final lap, and then he collapsed, not just once, but five times.

Each time he was helped to his feet by officials – and it was these well-intended acts that brought a complaint from the American team and Pietri’s disqualification.

It made him famous though; he turned professional in 1909 and earned a pretty fortune.