Olympic Deaths [Edit]

Unfortunately a number of athletes and officials have died, or been killed, during the Olympic Games and Olympic Winter Games. Through 2010, this has occurred to six athletes and one official during competition or training runs. In addition, in 1972 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were savagely murdered during a terrorism attack by the Black September group. There have been other deaths associated with the Olympics, including a few spectators or family members who have died. Most recently, these include the father of Ron Karnaugh, 1992 United States’ swimmer, who sustained a heart attack during the Opening Ceremony, and later died; and Thérèse Rochette, the mother of Joannie Rochette, 2010 Canadian figure skater, who died from a heart attack just after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter skate in the Winter Olympics.

The first athlete to die in Olympic competition was Portuguese marathoner Francisco Lázaro, who collapsed during the 1912 Olympic marathon, and died the next morning. A gap of 48 years then occurred until the Rome Olympic Games. During the team time trial, Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen collapsed and could not be revived. His death was attributed to a combination of heat stroke and it was also found that he had traces of Ronicol, a stimulant, in his blood. This was actually one of the factors that later led to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) testing for drug use by athletes.

Since then, five deaths have occurred at the Winter Olympics. In 1964 two athletes died in Innsbruck during training for the Winter Olympic competition. These were Ross Milne, an Australian skier, who crashed and struck a tree training for the downhill ski race; and Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a British lugeist who was a Polish émigré, who died during a luge training run. In 1988 at Calgary, Jörg Oberhammer, the Austrian ski team doctor, was killed when he was struck by a ski grooming machine that was preparing the courses prior to the second run of the giant slalom. Four years later, in Albertville, Nicolas Bochatay, competing in the speed skiing demonstration sport, died during a training run when he crashed into a ski grooming machine. Finally, on the morning of the 2010 Vancouver Opening Ceremony, Georgian lugeist Nodar Kumaritashvili flew off the luge track during a training run, crashing into a steel stanchion, and was killed instantly.

The greatest Olympic tragedy occurred on 5 September 1972 at the Munich Olympics when Black September terrorists invaded the Olympic Village and entered the Israeli team rooms. They took hostage 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. Some were killed in their Village rooms, while most died later that evening during a shoot-out at the Fürstenfeldbruck Airport, outside of Munich. The murdered Israelis were as follows: Mark Slavin (wrestler); Eliezer Halfin (wrestler); David Berger (weightlifter); Ze’ev Friedman (weightlifter); Yossef Romano (weightlifter); Andre Spitzer (fencing coach); Moshe Weinberg (wrestling coach); Amitzur Shapira (track coach); Yossef Gutfreund (wrestling referee); Yakov Springer (weightlifting judge); and Kehat Shorr (shooting coach).