Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A steeplechase race is tough and dangerous. Along the course, horses and jockeys must clear fences, hedges, and ditches. It’s not unusual for horses to fall. In one memorable race, a horse did happen to fall—and a moment later a truly unbelievable thing happened. This amazing race took place in 1953, at England’s famous Southwell racetrack. A horse named Royal Student was the favorite to win. At the fifth fence, Royal Student was in the lead. Knother, a horse ridden by Mick Morrissey, was right behind him. Then suddenly, Royal Student crashed, and his jockey was thrown to the ground. Unable to stop, Knother slammed into Royal Student—and Mick Morrissey was thrown high into the air. Just as Royal Student was struggling to his feet, Mick plopped down on Royal Student’s saddle! It didn’t matter that Royal Student finished the race last. No one who was at the track that day will ever forget that legendary event. Jockey Mick Morrissey started the race on one horse and finished on another! THE OLYMPICS There are many extraordinary stories about Olympic athletes. Felix Carvajal’s story is definitely one of the strangest. A postal worker in Havana, Cuba, Felix was excited to hear that the 1904 Olympics would be held in the United States. He knew he was a good, strong runner. Why not run in the Olympic marathon? Felix had never entered a competitive race in his life. But that didn’t stop him. His dream was to win a gold medal for Cuba! In order to train for the race, Felix quit his job at the post office. But he had no money to travel to the Olympic venue in St. Louis, Missouri. He made a plan. To attract attention, he ran around a public square in Havana. When a big crowd gathered to watch, Felix told them about his dream and asked for donations. After running laps around the square for several days, he finally had enough money for the trip. On the first leg of his journey, a ship took him to New Orleans. There, he lost all his money in a crooked dice game! But Felix was still determined to make it to the Olympics. He walked and hitchhiked 700 miles to St. Louis! Along the way, he told his story to sympathetic strangers who bought him food. Felix arrived just a few days before the marathon race. The long trip had left him ragged, exhausted, and half-starved. Luckily, the United States weight-lifting team took pity on him. They fed him and gave him a place to sleep. The day of the marathon, Felix joined the other runners. They all stared at him. He was wearing heavy walking shoes, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants! The race was delayed while another athlete cut off Felix’s pants at the knee. Then the starter’s gun fired and the 31 runners took off. The temperature was over 90 degrees, and the air was heavy and sticky. But these conditions didn’t bother Felix. He laughed and joked about it. Along the way he practiced speaking English with friendly bystanders. At one point, he spotted two Olympic officials in a car. They were about to bite into some peaches. Reaching through the car window, Felix swiped the peaches out of their hands! Farther along the course he paused at an orchard and picked some apples. Unfortunately, the green apples gave him stomach cramps, which slowed him down a bit. Only 14 runners finished the race. Against all odds, Felix Carvajal came in fourth. If he hadn’t stopped for a couple of snacks, he might have actually won the Olympic Marathon!


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