The Rundown

Top 10: Sport’s loveable losers

The Rundown

View gallery

.
Inspired by
the sprinter who clocked a headline-stealing 15.66m in the men's 100m at the
World Championships in Daegu, we take a look at the sports stars whose
failure didn't stop them from being loved by fans.

1. Trevor 'the Tortoise' Misapeka

Before
Sogelau the Snail  (see number 10) there
was Trevor the Tortoise, aka Trevor Misapeka.

Representing
American Samoa, Trevor took part in the 100m heats of the World Championships
in Canada in 2001, clocking a time of 14.28 seconds - actually an astonishing
time considering that he tipped the scales at 21 stone.

He kept a
huge sense of humour about the whole thing, however, joking that he had " never
run that far before", and claiming that, "If I was running against
Maurice Greene, I probably would have been lapped!"

Misapeka, a
US College football star, had turned up in Edmonton to compete in the shot put,
but was roped in to having a crack at the 100m after late rule changes by the
IAAF left his team a man short.

Watch his run here:

 

View gallery

.
2. Perry Groves

George
Graham's first signing as Arsenal manager rarely shone on the pitch, but his infectious
enthusiasm and evident joy in simply playing football made him an instant hit
with the fans. He played a key role in the League Cup win during his first
season of 1986-87, but in 1988 lost his first team spot to Brian Marwood.

Still,
Groves was firmly established as a cult figure among Gooners, with fans
regularly chanting "We all live in a Perry Groves world" to the tune
of 'Yellow Submarine', and to this day he still has a fan club and a website. Arsenal
fans even started a campaign to buy his autobiography upon its release in 2006,
which has outsold memoirs penned by the likes of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand
and Ashley Cole.

3. Chesterfield FC

No team
from England's third tier has reached an FA Cup final, but had it not been for
a controversial penalty decision from David Ellery then Chesterfield surely
would have made it in 1997 - and their heroic run made them, briefly, the
second-favourite team of every football fan in the country.

Led by a
young Kevin Davies up front, Chesterfield took an unlikely 2-0 lead at Old
Trafford over a Middlesbrough team containing the likes of Juninho, Emerson and
Fabrizio Ravanelli.

Italian
striker Ravanelli got one back for Boro, but then came the key moment of the
match as Jonathan Howard smashed a shot off the underside of the bar that
dropped over the line.

Replays
showed it was a clear goal but referee Ellery refused to give it.

Middlesbrough
were also down to 10 men at that stage and a 3-1 deficit would surely have been
too much.

Craig
Hignett levelled for Boro to send the match into extra-time and Gianluca Festa
then gave the Premier League side the lead in the extra 30 minutes.

A late
equaliser from Jamie Hewitt did at least earn Chesterfield a replay, but their
chance had gone and Boro eased to a 3-0 win.

View gallery

.
4. Eric 'the Eel' Moussambani

The
charming 22-year-old from Equatorial Guinea took up swimming just eight months
before the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and had never swum in a 50m pool before
lining up for his 100m freestyle heat.

But he
became the most famous athlete at the Games when he splashed and thrashed his
way to the end of his heat in one minute 52.72 seconds. He not only stole the
headlines from Pieter van den Hoogenband - who set a world record that would
stand for eight years in the same competition - but also the hearts of sports
fans across the world.

Eric was
due to swim at the 2004 Olympics under the same exemption rule, and was
confident of a massive improvement after slashing his personal best to under 57
seconds.

Sadly, a
visa bungle prevented him from taking part in Athens, and robbed him of the
chance of an encore.

5. Bernard Freyberg

The
legendary soldier and swimmer was born in the London suburb of Richmond, but moved
to New Zealand when he was two and subsequently became the kiwis' national 100m
champion - though it was back in his native England where he became truly
famous for his swimming.

During the First
World War he served at Gallipoli, and had won a medal for an astonishing action
which involved him swimming to-and-from shore from a ship two miles out to sea
while towing rafts carrying oil flares and calcium lights with which to scout
enemy positions.

Despite
nearly drowning, his exploits clearly whetted his appetite for swimming, and in
1925 and 1926 he made repeated attempts to swim across the English channel.

Yet he
never made it across. The closest he ever came was in August 1925, when having
braved appalling conditions from Cap Gris Nez, he got to within 500 yards of
Dover. Utterly shattered, he paused for a break while well-wishers in boats
cheered him on - but he was never able to get going again and had to be hauled
into a boat and taken to shore.

"The
Channel has won again," read the report in The Times, "but seldom, by
those whom it has conquered, was victory so nearly snatched from its grasp."

Still, Freyberg
had a happy ending: he went on to be promoted to be a General, win the Victoria
Cross, become governor of New Zealand and end his days as a Baron.

 

View gallery

.
ALL SPORTS Eddie The Eagle, aka Eddie Edwards - 0
6. Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards

The
plasterer from Cheltenham was actually a decent downhill skier who had fallen
just short of Olympic selection in 1984, but after dabbling with the ski jump
during training in Lake Placid, he decided to try his luck in winter sport's
ultimate daredevil event.

Unable to
wear contact lenses for medical reasons, the lovably gormless-looking Edwards did
his jumps wearing thick glasses underneath his goggles, and became an instant
hit with crowds who fell in love with both his boggle-eyed look and his clear
excitement every time he landed in one piece.

He might
have finished last in both 70m and 90m events, but ended the Games as one of
the most famous athletes in the world - something which took him completely by
surprise, as he told Eurosport in an interview last year.

Eddie took
part in the Games thanks to a rule ensuring that every country is allowed at least
one representative in each sport - regardless of their talent.

Sadly, the
British Olympic Association - tedious killjoys that they are - subsequently
implemented a rule (known as the 'Eddie the Eagle' rule) insisting that
athletes from these isles reach a minimum qualifying standard, robbing a
generation of untalented but plucky Brits from living their own Olympic dreams.

View gallery

.
7. The Jamaican bobsled team

Jamaica? At
the Winter Olympics? In bobsleigh racing? It only took Hollywood five years to
put the extraordinary tale of the Caribbean island's exploits in the most
unlikely of sports onto the silver screen via the popular John Candy comedy
'Cool Runnings'.

The
real-life Jamaican team not only surprised everyone by competing at the 1988
Winter Olympics in Canada but by also actually performing quite well. As the
event went on they consistently improved their times and while they were never
challenging for medals they were undoubtedly the crowd's favourite.

However,
they failed to finish the event after a horrific crash on their final run left
them skidding down the track on their sides. Worried spectators looked on as
the sled came to a rest but all four members of the team got up and walked to
the finishing line to massive applause. They didn't carry the sled like they
did in the movie, but hey - you have to allow those movie producers a little
creative licence.

8. Peter Buckley

One of the greatest ever episodes of The Simpsons involves Homer almost
becoming world heavyweight champion after discovering that he is unable to be
knocked out. That could almost be a documentary about the legendary 1990s
boxer, who was more walking punchbag than lethal pugilist.

The Brummie fought in several weight divisions throughout his career, but
generally took to the ring as a welterweight. At various points of his career
he fought many of Britain's most famous boxers, including Nassem Hamed and Duke
McKenzie.

There was only one problem: he just wasn't very good. Of his 300
professional fights he won just 32, just eight of which were by knockout - yet
his passion for getting punched saw him carry on as a fighter for an incredible
19 years. He simply loved it, often taking part in bouts where other fighters
had pulled out injured and on very short notice - anything to get back into the
ring.

Still, Buckley will perhaps have the last laugh: he became a cult figure
among British boxing fans, and a film is currently in development about his
life. It should have an inspiring ending, at least: Buckley won his last ever
professional bout against fellow journeyman Matin Mohammed.

View gallery

.
9. Derek Redmond

The British
400m runner was an athlete of genuine quality, the British 400m record holder
for five years, and a member of the unstoppable 4x400m - along with Roger
Black, Kriss Akabusi and John Regis - that won World Championship gold in 1991
against the highly-fancied American squad.

Yet he was
also one of the unluckiest athletes in sporting history, being plagued by
injuries that often kept him out of major championships, and seeing him in
surgery repeatedly.

That all
looked like changing at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when he turned up in
superb form, and stormed to victory in his heat and quarter-final.

In the
semi-finals, it all went horribly wrong. His hamstring snapped on the back straight,
prompting his father to barge past the security guards and help him hobble
across the line in what remains one of the most enduring images ever seen at
the Olympics.

Further injury
problems continued to dog Redmond, and he was forced to retire from athletics
in 1994.

10. Sogelau 'the Snail' Tuvalu

Finally,
for those of you who might have missed it over the weekend, there is the man
who inspired this piece: Sogelau Tuvalu of the tiny South Pacific nation of
American Samoa.

Tuvalu had
originally hoped to go to South Korea to take part in the shot put, but after
failing to qualify for the event the 17-year-old instead decided to turn his
sights to the 100m.

He clocked
a stunning 15.66 seconds to go out in the opening preliminary round, but
inspired the world by declaring himself delighted with an effort that was,
amazingly, a personal best.

"I believed in
myself," he said afterward. "This is a dream come true."

Watch his run:

View Comments (0)