With sports like skeleton, which sends competitors head-first down an ice track, and gymnastics, which hurtles athletes through the air, the Olympic Games are not for the faint of heart.
And while accidents and injuries are common during competition, it’s rare that an athlete dies while competing in their sport.
While some athletes have died at the Olympics due to illness, car crashes and even terrorism, these athletes died while competing in or practicing official Olympic sports at the Games.
1964 – Ross Milne – Alpine Skiing
Australian skier Ross Milne died after flying off the course and crashing into a tree while training at 1964’s Innsbruck Games in Austria. Initially, the International Olympic Committee claimed Milne was too young and inexperienced for the slope, according to the Australian Olympic Committee. But Milne’s crash was caused by him swerving to avoid a crowd of contestants a spot on the course that was not meant for stopping.
1964 – Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki – Luge
The same year that Milne died, British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki was also killed in a training wreck, according to the Washington Post. She was the only luger to die during the Olympics until 2010 when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died, according to the International Business Times.
2010 – Nodar Kumaritashvili – Luge
Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died before the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver, Canada, after losing control of his sled on a training run, and hitting a steel pole beside the track, Reuters reported. In light of the accident, a wall was later raised and the ice profile of the track was altered. Reuters added that lugers also get more training runs to get a better feel on the track.
The anniversary of Kumaritashvili’s death was noted on the luge track at the 2018 PyeongChang Games Monday.
1912 – Francisco Lazaro – Marathon Runner
Francisco Lazaro from Portugal died a day after he collapsed from sunstroke and heart trouble in a Stockholm hospital, according to the Olympic Forum of Portugal, a center for Olympic studies founded by University of Lisbon professors. Dope: A History of Performance Enhancement in Sports from the Nineteenth Century to Today notes that this was the first death of an athlete at the Olympics during a competition. Lazaro had run just over 19 miles prior to collapsing.
1960 – Knut Jensen – Cycling
In the middle of a road race, Danish cyclist Knut Jensen collapsed and fractured his skull, CBS reported. It was later revealed that Jensen had taken stimulants before the race. Dope cites Jensen’s death as the first connected to performance enhancing drugs at the Olympics. However, about a year later, the New York Times reported that his cause of death was due to heatstroke.