10 Tragic Athlete Deaths

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[Image courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com]

Saturday's Kentucky Derby was marred by tragedy, as runner-up Eight Belles had to be euthanized on the track after breaking both front ankles. She was not the first athlete to be struck down on the playing field. Here are ten other tragic athlete deaths.

1. Bill Masterton, Hockey

masterson.jpgFour minutes into a 1968 hockey game between the Minnesota North Stars and the Oakland Seals, the North Stars' center, Bill Masterton, fell backward and hit his head on the ice. He died 30 hours later from "massive brain injury," becoming the first player to be killed during a game in the history of the NHL.

2. Vladimir Smirnov, Fencing

Vladimir Smirnov and Matthias Behr lunged simultaneously during a championship fencing match in Rome in 1982. As Behr's foil struck Smirnov's chest protector, the blade snapped at the tip, and the jagged end cut through Smirnov's wire-mesh face protector. The blade pierced Smirnov's brain and severed an artery; the 28-year-old died 10 days later.

3. Sergei Chalibashvili, Diving

Competitors at the World University Games in 1983 knew that Sergei Chalibashvili's dive could end in tragedy. The 21-year-old Soviet was attempting a 3-1/2 reverse somersault in tuck position, and he'd struggled with the dive in practice. Chalibashvili's head struck the ten-meter-high platform, resulting in multiple skull fractures; he died of heart failure. His dive became known as the Dive of Death.

4. Lane Frost, Bull Riding

lane-frost.jpgLane Frost, the 1987 world champion bull rider, was thrown from a bull at the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. The 25-year-old was fine after the fall but, as he walked away, the bull charged him from behind, breaking Frost's ribs and puncturing a major blood vessel. Frost died from the injuries. The movie 8 Seconds, directed by John G. Avildsen, depicts Frost's life and death.

5. Fabio Casartelli, Cycling

The descent from Col du Portet d'Aspet, in the Tour de France, is lined with concrete blocks that prevent cars from going over the edge of the cliff. In 1995, Fabio Casartelli, a 24-year-old Italian cyclist, fell off his bike on a turn, his head striking one of the concrete blocks. He suffered three heart attacks in a helicopter on the way to the hospital, and was pronounced dead not long after.

6. Raman Lamba, Cricket

In 1998, a 38-year-old Indian cricketer, Raman Lamba, was hit by a ball during a cricket tournament. The blow to the head caused severe brain injuries that three days later resulted in his death.

7. Owen Hart, Professional Wrestling

owen-hart-2.jpgOwen Hart, a Canadian professional wrestler, was to be lowered into the ring during a WWF match in 1999. Unfortunately, the cable was not properly hooked onto Hart. The 33-year-old fell to his death in front of more than 16,000 people. The match was being shown as part of a pay-per-view package called "Over the Edge." After Hart's death, the event continued.

8. Rosbin Yuman & Lester Marrioquin, Soccer

In 2001, a storm hit a stadium in Chiquimulilla, Guatemala, during a soccer game. While most fans left, officials made the poor decision to continue the game. Lightning struck one of the metal guard rails surrounding the field, injuring more than 25 people and killing two of the players, Rosbin Yuman, 16, and Lester Marrioquin, 24, instantly.

9. Kim Hyung-Chil, Equestrian

KimHyung-Chil.jpgAlthough there were wet conditions at the 2006 Asian Games, organizers do not believe that slippery conditions caused the accident that killed Kim Hyung-Chil. The 47-year-old South Korean rider's horse, Bundaberg Black, apparently mistimed its jump over a fence and fell, crushing Hyung-Chil.

10. Lauren Chang, Cheerleading

At the Minuteman Cheerleading Championships this year (April 2008), a 20-year-old on an elite cheer squad died from collapsed lungs. Apparently, Lauren Chang was accidentally kicked in the chest by a tumbler, though witnesses weren't sure exactly what went wrong.

Previously on mental_floss...

Jockey Frank Hayes, baseball player Ray Chapman, and race car driver J.G. Parry-Thomas are discussed in Stacy Conradt's December 2007 post on Eight (and a half) People Whose Jobs Actually Killed Them.

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May 5, 2008 - 4:19am
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