At the 2004 Games in Athens Vanderlei de Lima was representing Brazil in the 26 mile marathon. He was having an excellent race and was in the lead with only four miles remaining. Later de Lima said he felt 'unstoppable' and believed he was a lock for the gold.
We'll never know if Vanderlei would have came away as an Olympic champion because this happened:
De Lima's attacker was Neil Horan. Horan, a former priest, is notiorious for disrupting sporting events (including the 2003 British Grand Prix and the 2004 Epsom Derby) in an attempt to spread his religious beliefs that the end of the world is near. During the Olympics, Horan was wearing a kilt and had white placard with the words "The Grand Prix priest. Israel fulfillment of prophecy says the bible, the second coming is near"
The attack cost de Lima 10-15 seconds of his 48 second lead but it rattled the Brazilian:
"The attack really surprised me, because I did not think I was his target. He did not injure me, but he broke my rhythm and I lost concentration."He eventually finished third and was awarded the 'Pierre de Coubertin Medal' at the closing ceremony. The IOC wanted to recognize de Lima's exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values ... which we're sure they tried to convice de Lima was even better than a gold medal.
Take a look at the 16 most bizarre Olympic moments in history:
Day 1 - Eric "The Eel" Moussambani
Day 2 - Betty Robinson
Day 3 - Sally Robbins
Day 4 - Abebe Bilkila
Day 5 - 1972 USA Basketball team
Day 6 - Bobby Pearce
Day 7 - Byun Jong-il
Day 8 - Stella Walsh
Day 9 - Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
Day 10 - Ingeborg Marx
Day 11 - Vanderlei de Lima
Day 12 - Hans-Jurgen Todt
Day 13 - Liu Changchun
Day 14 - Dorando Pietri
Day 15 - 1956 Hungarian Water Polo Team
Day 16 - 1960 Tunisian Modern Pentathlon Team