Olympics Loser Fights his Horse (and 5 other Unlikely Sports Brawls)

Snooker players Quentin Hann and Mark Hicks.
Snooker players Quentin Hann and Mark Hicks.
Getty Images

While I usually don't pay much attention to the WNBA, it's hard to ignore what Candace Parker is doing to kick-start interest in the league.  She's dunking, she's rebounding, and on Tuesday night she went one step further and became embroiled in a melee during the Los Angeles Sparks' road game against the Detroit Shock.  If you sat down to make a list of "sporting events at which you're least likely to see a brawl," a WNBA game would have to be near the top, but was it the most unexpected throwdown of all time? Here are a few other notables you may have missed:

1. Stock Car Racing Goes Kung Fu

Before the event started, there was relatively little chance of the 2006 Glass City 200 at Toledo Speedway becoming an object of international fascination. After all, it wasn't even a NASCAR race; it was part of the ARCA series, a sort of minor league level of the sport.  All of that changed when Don Saint Denis spun out Michael Simko during the race. With the red flag up to stop the race, Simko decided it was time for some revenge. He hopped out of his car and ran full-steam towards Saint Denis' ride before giving it a flying Mortal-Kombat-style kick through the windshield. Simko then removed his helmet and started punching his foe through the driver's window. Saint Denis wasn't going to go down without a fight, though; he crawled out of the car and started defending himself.  The dustup was shown on television stations around the world and quickly became a YouTube classic; both riders drew suspensions for their actions. Here's video of the scrape:

2. NASCAR Fights Its Way National

The 1979 Daytona 500 is considered one of the most important races in the sport's history, but not completely because what drivers did behind the wheel. Although the race was the first of its length to be shown on live television in the U.S., what happened after the checkered flag dropped made it legendary. In the last lap of a tight race, Cale Yarborough tried a risky pass of leader Donnie Allison. Allison successfully blocked Yarborough's advance, but Yarborough hit the infield mud and lost control of his car.  The two drivers careened into the wall and ended up crashed in the infield as Richard Petty zipped past them to take the win. Allison and Yaborough got out of their cars and started arguing in the infield, and within a few seconds were throwing punches, as was Allison's brother Bobby. CBS broadcast the fight nationwide, and the story hit the front of the New York Times' sports section, which helped propel NASCAR to much greater national popularity.

3. Jockeys Throw Diminutive Blows

Jockey Eddie Taplin was a legendary ironman in the horseracing scene of the early 20th century. He ran over 9,000 races in a career that spanned over three decades before retiring in 1936.  He also wasn't afraid to shred some silks after a race was over. Taplin lost the 1910 Martinez Handicap to E. Martin, who was aboard the horse Binocular.  During the stretch run, though, Taplin had cracked Martin with his whip, which he claimed was justified since Martin crowded him. The two jockeys jawed about the contact after the race, and eventually Martin lost his temper and threw a punch.  Taplin may not have started the fight, but he ended it: he punched Martin hard enough that he dislocated two of his own fingers. The tiny pugilists eventually separated and received suspensions.

4. Man Fights Horse

Taplin and Martin's spat may not have been all that classy, but at least they attacked each other and not their horses, which is more than can be said for Hans-Jurgen Todt.  The West German modern pentathlete was competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when his horse for the riding portion of the competition began giving him trouble. The horse, Ranchero, balked at three different obstacles, effectively killing Todt's chance at a medal. Todt then came unhinged and started attacking the horse. It took several teammates to eventually break up the one-sided fight, and Todt became a strange Olympic footnote as a sort of anti-Nietzsche.

5. Water Polo Gets Physical

Water polo is already a taxing game, but in one match early in the 20th century, it turned downright violent. Teams from New York and Chicago met in Pittsburgh for a preliminary match to crown a national champion in the sport, and things quickly turned rather gruesome. Early in the match a scrum broke out, and it escalated until four men were taken from the water unconscious. At that point, it probably seemed the fight was over, but Chicago's coach Joe Choynsky had a different idea. Choynsky, a former prizefighter, reignited the melee by delivering a picture-perfect blow to the jaw of New York player Joe Ruddy. According to Time magazine, a riot then broke out as female spectators yelled "Shame!" at the men. Following these antics, the Amateur Athletic Union dropped water polo from its program for over twenty years before picking it back up in 1934.

6. Snooker Players Take It Outside

Before he became a professional pool player, Australian Quinten Hann was a hotheaded pro snooker player known for his temperamental outbursts. One particularly notable incident occurred at the 2004 World Championships while he was playing Andy Hicks.  Throughout the match Hann taunted the unseeded Englishman, and after Hicks dropped Hann 10-4, Hann challenged Hicks to a fistfight outside. Match officials separated the players, but they eventually came to blows. After the fistfight, fellow snooker pro Mark King decided to take up Hicks' cause in a charity boxing match after the event. Hann apparently decided he was something of a pugilist after this win and scheduled another fight against Gaelic footballer Johnny Magee; Magee promptly broke Hann's nose in that bout.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Fast Facts About Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Wilma Rudolph made history as a Black female athlete at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. The 20-year-old Tennessee State University sprinter was the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. Rudolph’s heroics in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter events only lasted seconds, but her legend persists decades later, despite her untimely 1994 death from cancer at age 54. Here are some facts about this U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member.

1. Wilma Rudolph faced poverty and polio as a child.

When Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee, she weighed just 4.5 pounds. Olympic dreams seemed impossible for Rudolph, whose impoverished family included 21 other siblings. Among other maladies, she had measles, mumps, and pneumonia by age 4. Most devastatingly, polio twisted her left leg, and she wore leg braces until she was 9.

2. Wilma Rudolph originally wanted to play basketball.

The Tennessee Tigerbelles. From left to right: Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Wilma Rudolph, and Barbara Jones.Central Press/Getty Images

At Clarksville’s Burt High School, Rudolph flourished on the basketball court. Nearly 6 feet tall, she studied the game, and ran track to keep in shape. However, while competing in the state basketball championship in Nashville, the 14-year-old speedster met a referee named Ed Temple, who doubled as the acclaimed coach of the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team. Temple, who would coach at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, recruited Rudolph.

3. Wilma Rudolph made her Olympic debut as a teenager.

Rudolph hit the limelight at 16, earning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But that didn’t compare to the media hype when she won three gold medals in 1960. French journalists called her “The Black Pearl,” the Italian press hailed “The Black Gazelle,” and in America, Rudolph was “The Tornado.”

4. After her gold medals, Wilma Rudolph insisted on a racially integrated homecoming.

Tennessee governor Buford Ellington, who supported racial segregation, intended to oversee the Clarksville celebrations when Rudolph returned from Rome. However, she refused to attend her parade or victory banquet unless both were open to Black and white people. Rudolph got her wish, resulting in the first integrated events in the city’s history.

5. Muhammad Ali had a crush on Wilma Rudolph.

Ali—known as Cassius Clay when he won the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing title—befriended Rudolph in Rome. That fall, the 18-year-old boxer invited Rudolph to his native Louisville, Kentucky. He drove her around in a pink Cadillac convertible.

6. John F. Kennedy literally fell over when he invited Wilma Rudolph to the White House.

President Kennedy, Wilma Rudolph, Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, and Vice President Johnson in the Oval Office.Abbie Rowe/White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum // Public Domain

In 1961, Rudolph met JFK in the Oval Office. After getting some photos taken together, the President attempted to sit down in his rocking chair and tumbled to the floor. Kennedy quipped: “It’s not every day that I get to meet an Olympic champion.” They chatted for about 30 minutes.

7. Wilma Rudolph held three world records when she retired.

Rudolph chose to go out on top and retired in 1962 at just 22 years old. Her 100-meter (11.2 seconds), 200-meter (22.9 seconds), and 4 x 100-meter relay (44.3 seconds) world records all lasted several years.

8. Wilma Rudolph visited West African countries as a goodwill ambassador.

The U.S. State Department sent Rudolph to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal. According to Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, while there, Rudolph independently met with future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, a nationalist youth movement. She visited Mali, Guinea, and the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as well.

9. Denzel Washington made his TV debut in a movie about Wilma Rudolph.

Before his Oscar-winning performances in Glory (1989) and Training Day (2001), a 22-year-old Denzel Washington portrayed Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s second husband, in Wilma (1977). The film also starred Cicely Tyson as Rudolph’s mother Blanche.

10. Schools, stamps, and statues commemorate Wilma Rudolph’s legacy.

Berlin, Germany, has a high school named after Rudolph. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp celebrating her in 2004. Clarksville features a bronze statue by the Cumberland River, the 1000-capacity Wilma Rudolph Event Center, and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. In Tennessee, June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day.