Football, Uncategorized

Sporting Deaths that Shocked the World

Sporting Deaths that Shocked the World

We all need to accept that we are going to die at some point in the future. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be killed in conflict, murdered, or die in an accident, dying is usually a gradual process. Those unluckily enough to have died while participating in a sporting event are patently a minute fraction of all human deaths.

Here are three freakish tales of sporting fatalities that shook the sporting world:

Horse racing

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0

On 4 June 1923, Frank Hayes came under starter orders riding the 20-1 shot Sweet Kiss at New York’s Belmont Park. The 22-year-old (though also reported as being 35) stablehand and novice jockey was about to write his name into the annals of horse racing history.

At some point during the race, Hayes suffered a fatal heart attack. However, the setback did not hinder his mount’s performance, as Sweet Kiss went on to win the gruelling two-mile race. Incredibly, Hayes managed to remain in the saddle until his horse crossed the finish line. Thus, Hayes became the first and only rider to win a horse race as a corpse.

Sweet Kiss eventually pulled up some 100 yards beyond the finish line. Hayes then slumped forward in the saddle, slipped slowly over his mount’s side and fell face-down on the ground. The track physician, Dr. John Voorhees rushed towards the fallen jockey to immediately pronounce him dead.

Three days later, Hayes was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, dressed in the racing silks he had worn in the race. Renamed the Sweet Kiss of Death by the racing fraternity, Hayes’ mount never ran another race.

Football (Soccer)

Photo Credit: Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On 29 October 1998, Basanga and Bena Tshadi faced off against each other in a crucial football match in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern province of Kasai. The Kinshasa daily newspaper L’Avenirin later reported that the game had ended with a bizarre tragedy. Reportedly, all eleven players from the away team Bena Tshadi were killed after being struck by lightning during the game. Amazingly, the home side players were completely unharmed, though around 30 spectators reputedly suffered burns.

One theory mooted as to why the away team had been wiped out during the lightning attack was because they had all worn metal boot studs. By good fortune, the home team players had all favoured boots with moulded studs. However, in a region particularly noted for its deep superstitious beliefs, some believed witchcraft had been at play. Especially, since it is a common practice in the region for people to hire a shaman to place a curse on their opponents. Another more conspiratorial theory was that the Bena Tshadi players had simply been murdered by their opponents.

Notably, there has never been any official corroboration that the fantastical event ever happened. Nevertheless, the supposed catastrophic event still received global coverage. Additionally, an ongoing regional conflict has made it difficult to gather accurate information from the area.

Professional Wrestling

Photo credit: Creative Commons/Public Domain Mark 1.0

On 23 August 1987, Malcolm “King Kong” Kirk and his wrestling partner, King Kendo, were matched in a bout against Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree and Greg Valentine. The event, staged at the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, turned out to be one of the most tragic events in professional wrestling history.

Almost 2 m tall and weighing 170 kg, Big Daddy was particularly well-known for his body slams. Fifteen minutes into the match, Big Daddy performed his famous “belly splash” showstopper on Kirk. However, after the follow-on pinfall move by Big Daddy, 51-year-old Kirk failed to get up from the canvas, remaining immobile. Medically trained staff attempted to perform CPR but Kirk’s 160 kg frame proved a hindrance. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Kirk’s postmortem revealed that he had an existing heart condition that could have caused a heart attack at any time. However, it was thought his heart attack was triggered by the very physical nature of professional wrestling. The inquiry concluded that his death was entirely due to natural causes. The postmortem pathologist thought that Kirk’s fatal attack probably came before he received the splashdown. He went on to state, “It is likely he was already dead when he fell to the canvas”.


Header photo credit: Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar