Olympic Athletes Who Have Died at the Olympic Games
Death While Competing at the Olympics
Francisco Lázaro, Marathon Runner
Portugal's first marathon entrant, Francisco Lazaro, earned the distinction of being the first Olympic athlete to die in the modern games. He was a competitor at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
He collapsed after reaching the 30-kilometer mark during the race. His death was at first thought to be due to heat exhaustion caused by the extreme heat on the day of the race.
During the autopsy, it was discovered that Lazaro had covered his skin with wax, a common practice at the time to prevent sunburn. Unable to perspire normally, Lazaro died from an electrolyte imbalance.
It would be 48 years before another athlete died at the Olympic Games.
Possible Olympic Deaths?
Nicolae Berechet, Boxer
For Romanian featherweight boxer Nicolae Berechet, the official cause of death was blood poisoning.
However, at the time, many people speculated that he died of head injuries sustained during his boxing match.
Berechet died four days after losing his boxing bout at the 1936 Berlin games.
Knud Enemark Jensen, Cyclist
Jensen died while competing in a team race during the 1960 Rome Olympics. He collapsed and fell to the road, fracturing his skull. He died a short time later in a medical tent.
The official cause of death was heatstroke, though his doctor later admitted to giving Jensen and his teammates a vasodilator prior to the race.
Due to the ensuing controversy about the real cause of Jensen's death, the Olympic Committee mandated drug tests be performed on all athletes. Mandatory drug testing began with the 1968 Winter Olympics.
Death While Practicing at the Olympics
Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski, Luge Racer
For Olympic athletes, 1964 was not a good year. This was the year the Olympics were held in Innsbruck, and the first athlete to die was Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski, a British luge racer.
The luge event was considered a very dangerous sport and was making its debut in the 1964 games. The Polish-born Kay-Skrzypeski was killed while practicing on the Olympic luge track. He was 27 when he died.
Leslie Ross Milne, Alpine Ski Racer
Milne, an Australian skier, was only 19 years old when he died during a practice run for the men's downhill ski race at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics. Milne went off course, hit a tree, and died of head injuries.
An investigation into the accident questioned his youth and inexperience, but blame ultimately was found to lie with the course. After another skier was seriously injured during practice, the course was slightly modified before the official start of the ski runs.
Nodar Kumaritashvili, Luge Racer
The second person to die while doing a practice run on a luge sled, Kumaritashvili was a native of Borjomi, Georgia.
He lost control of his sled at the end of the luge run and was thrown over the side of the track where he slammed into an uncovered post. Still breathing, he was airlifted to a hospital where he later died.
He was 21 years old at the time of his death.
Nicolas Bochatay, Speed Skier
Speed skiing was only a demonstration sport at the 1992 Albertville games. Swiss skier Nicolas Bochatay was practicing when he collided with a snow grooming machine on the final day of the speed skiing event.
Bochatay died of severe internal injuries. He was 28 at the time of his tragic death.
His aunt, Fernande Bochatay, had won a bronze medal competing in the giant slalom at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble.
Do you watch the Olympic games?
Non-Sport-Related Olympic Deaths
Eliška Misáková, Gymnast
Eliška Misáková was a member of the Czechoslavakian gymnastic team at the 1948 London games. She became ill soon after she arrived in London. She died of polio on the day her teammates won gold.
Arrigo Menicocci, Rower
Arrigo Menicocci, an Italian rower, was driving a car at a high speed when he lost control and hit a tree. He died at a hospital a few hours later. He had competed in the 1956 Melbourne games just days earlier.
ABC Coverage of the Munich Massacre
The Munich Massacre
Five Olympians and six coaches from Israel were kidnapped and subsequently murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.
The athletes were:
- Eliezer Halfin, 24, Greco-Roman wrestler
- David Mark Berger, 28, middle-weight weightlifter
- Ze'ev Friedman, 28, weightlifter
- Mark Slavin, 18, wrestler
- Yossef Romano, 31, middle-weight weightlifter