The Olympic Games have produced some of the most iconic sports moments in history. From eternal glory to heartbreak at the final hurdle, the Games never cease to amaze.
But unfortunately, the competitive edge that comes with the world’s most popular sporting event also results in athletes sustaining quite painful injuries that, like a memorable triumph, live long in the memories of both fans and athletes.
While we hope the Tokyo Games produce as little injuries as possible, digital media website Ranker has gone ahead and produced a list of the worst Olympic injuries in the history of the Games.
Markus Schairer Breaks Neck While Snowboarding
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Austrian snowboarder Markus Schairer sustained a horrific neck injury during the quarter-finals. After attempting a jump, Schairer fell on his upper back and neck and ultimately fractured his fifth cervical vertebrae.
Incredibly, he ended up finishing the race, but was transported back to Austria immediately after for treatment.
Vincenzo Nibali Fractures His Collarbones While Cycling
In Rio, Vincenzo Nibali collided with another cyclist, which resulted in the Italian fracturing both his collarbones. While many other cyclists were also subject to some unfortunate falls, Nibali sadly had it worse than all the rest.
Annemiek van Vleuten Rips Her Face Up During the Women’s Road Race
Another gruesome cycling accident in Rio saw Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten lose her lead in the women’s road race after she came off her bike following a sharp turn. She was rushed to hospital and had to be treated for a concussion and three fractures to her spine.
Thankfully, she later posted a picture on Twitter confirming that she was okay.
Samir Ait Said Snaps Leg While Attempting a Vault
During the vaulting qualifiers, Frenchman Samir Ait Said snapped his leg when landing. To add insult to injury, the medics DROPPED him when carrying him off the apparatus.
Jaehyouk Sa Fractures His Elbow Lifting 357lbs
Weightlifting injuries are arguably the most difficult to watch. In London 2012, South Korean weightlifter Jaehyouk Sa’s elbow snapped when he attempted to lift 357 pounds.
Janos Baranyai Dislocates His Elbow Weightlifting
Hungarian weightlifter Janos Baranyai suffered an elbow injury four years before Sa, but his was far more dreadful. His right elbow popped out of place, which ended Baranyai’s hopes of making it onto the podium. He never participated in another Olympic Games after that.
Derek Redmond Pops a Hamstring Running the 400 Metre Dash
This clip still gets us teary-eyed. In 1992, Derek Redmond sustained a hamstring injury during the 400m dash. With just 175m to go, Redmond’s father rushed onto the track to help his son finish the race. This will forever be one of the most touching moments in the history of the Olympics.
Kerri Strug Snaps Her Ankle While Vaulting
The 1996 Games in Atlanta saw young vaulter Kerri Strug snap her left ankle following a tough landing. She did not give up after that, though, as she ended up securing Gold for the United States during a second vault.
Maret Balkestein-Grothues Sustains an Ankle Injury Playing Volleyball
Dutch volleyball captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues was forced to leave her side’s matchup against Italy during the 2016 Games after she sprained her ankle mid-game. She then confirmed that the bone was indeed not broken and that her volleyball career was not over.
Manteo Mitchell Breaks His Leg Running the 400 Metre Relay
The American sprinter was running so hard that he actually broke one of his legs! In the post-race interview, Mitchell said: “It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.”
It turns out that the American had run the race with a broken left fibula which was left undiagnosed until after the 400m relay.
Kevin Pearce Breaks His Brain While Snowboarding
Snowboarding injuries are beyond scary and Kevin Pearce had it worse than anyone. The American suffered a traumatic brain injury during the 2010 Games in Vancouver, which resulted in Pearce never being able to put a stop to his professional snowboarding career.
Nodar Kumaritashvili Dies While Luging
Undoubtedly the most agonising of them all, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili passed away during a practice run for the Vancouver Games after he lost control of his sled and crashed into a metal pillar.
Ervin Zador’s Face Gushes Blood During a Water Polo Match
During the 1965 Games in Melbourne, Hungarian water polo player Ervin Zador’s face was slashed open by one of his Russian opponents. With “blood in the water,” this incident resulted in violence between players and fans. Hungary were awarded the victory following the incident.
Ellie Downie Breaks Her Neck Somersaulting
At just 17 years of age, Ellie Downie broke her neck while somersaulting during the Rio Games. While she didn’t suffer any long-term effects after the injury, the sound of that neck cracking is one no one would want to hear again.
John Tavares Does Severe Damage to His Meniscus
Canadian hockey star John Tavares banged his knee against one of the Latvian players during their clash at the 2014 Winter Olympics. As a result, he had severely damaged his meniscus and was ruled out, not only for the rest of the Games, but also for the remainder of the NHL season.
Knud Jensen Collapses During a Race and Fractures His Skull
In quite the controversial incident, Knud Jensen collapsed in the middle of a cycling race due to 108 degree Fahrenheit weather during the 1960 Games in Rome. Jensen fractured his skull and suffered irreparable brain damage. While being treated, though, multiple drugs were found in the Dane’s system, including various amphetamines.