London Spy

Olympic officials miss world record holder’s hammer throw

Betty Heidler, looking dismayed as she struggled in the women's hammer finalThe women's Olympic hammer final might not be the highest-profile event at the Games, but it became an unlikely focus of controversy and drama as a medal switched hands.

Olympic officials completely missed where the fifth throw of Germany's Betty Heidler landed - no doubt they were too busy playing with their radio-control Minis - and were unable to measure it.

If you think that sounds unbelievable in a stadium containing 80,000 people and almost 100 TV cameras, you've heard nothing yet: Heidler is the world record holder and the hot favourite to win the competition as it entered its critical final stages, and as she was on-course to finish a shocking ninth you'd have thought everyone would be paying attention.

Apparently not, however, and the officials decided that there was no alternative other than to give Heidler another chance. She had a go, but failed to improve on her opening throw of 73.90m.

Heidler talks to officials after her throw was missed

That left Tatyana Lysenko of Russia celebrating gold, Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk celebrating silver and China's Zhang Wenxiu delighted with her bronze.

Yet the story wasn't quite finished. A bright spark among the officials - with a little prompting from the German and her team - suggested that maybe one or two of those 100 cameras might have seen where the hammer landed even if the judges didn't. TV replays were consulted, Heidler's mark was found and measured... and the German suddenly found herself the delighted recipient of the bronze medal.

Heidler poses next to the board recording her phantom throw that won bronze

Much less delighted was Zhang, who was given the bad news a few minutes later. All she'll have left of the bronze that never was is this picture of her holding her national flag up in celebration:

Zhang Wenxiu celebrates 'winning' bronze

About London Spy

London Spy is the place to keep you informed on all the news in and around the 2012 Olympics. From torch tours to ticket touts, from Greco Roman wrestling to Stratford International maintenance, from Lord Coe to Wenlock and Mandeville, we will have all the slightly left field stories covered.


Will Britain top their 2012 medal haul at Rio 2016?

Poll Choice Options