The Marathon Makers
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At the 1908 Summer Olympics, one of the contenders in the marathon was the diminutive Italian Dorando Pietri. After leading the pack at a grueling pace, Pietri staggered into the stadium, turned the wrong direction, and fell five times, after which two officials took him by the arms and brought him across the finish line. The American team lodged a complaint, and as a consequence, Pietri was disqualified and his first place medal went to the American Johnny Hayes. But the glory went to Pietri, who eventually became an international celebrity and received a silvered cup from Queen Alexandria for his efforts. After the race, Hayes and a Scottish sprinter, Wyndham Halswelle, were dragged into a dispute surrounding the race’s official outcome, and a fierce war over sporting superiority between the United States and the British Empire resulted. The battle rapidly spilled over into politics and ethics, with allegations of cheating, drug-taking, and unprofessionalism levied by both nations. Bestselling author John Bryant delves into the lives of these three extraordinary men in a tale that stretches from rural Italy to Ellis Island, Broadway and beyond and explores the foundations of the modern sporting and marathon movements.
- John Blake, June 2009
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