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127 Amazing Facts for National Trivia Day

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Here's a little-known fact: it's National Trivia Day! Store these away for future trivia nights.

1. A reindeer's eyes change color through the seasons. They’re gold during the summer and blue in the winter.

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2. An avocado never ripens on the tree, so farmers can use trees as storage and keep avocados fresh for up to seven months.

Avocados on a tree
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3. Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt once sneaked out of a White House event, commandeered an airplane, and went on a joyride to Baltimore.

Amelia Earhart
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4. At the Humane Society of Missouri, kid volunteers comfort anxious shelter dogs by reading to them.

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5. During Prohibition, moonshiners would wear "cow shoes." The fancy footwear left hoofprints instead of footprints, helping distillers and smugglers evade police.

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6. In The Empire Strikes Back, an extra can be seen running with what appears to be an ice cream maker. The character became legendary among fans, and was eventually given a name (Willrow Hood) and a backstory.

Willrow Hood
Lucasfilm

7. Salvador Dali avoided paying restaurant tabs by using checks. He would draw on the back as the waiter watched, knowing no one would ever cash the art.

Wikimedia Commons

8. China owns all of the pandas in the world. They rent them out for about $1 million a year.

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9. In season two of The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross created a monochromatic landscape for a viewer who was worried that his color blindness would prevent him from being able to paint.

Bob Ross
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10. Bones found at Seymour Island indicate that at one time, 37 to 40 million years ago, penguins stood at a formidable 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds.

11. George Washington served an eggnog-like drink to visitors at Mount Vernon. His recipe included rye whiskey, rum, and sherry.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

12. Some cats are allergic to humans.

13. Queen Elizabeth II is a trained mechanic.

Queen Elizabeth II
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14. Volvo gave away the 1962 patent for their revolutionary three-point seat belt for free, in order to save lives.

Volvo logo
OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

15. Tsundoku is the act of acquiring books and not reading them.

16. Ravens in captivity can learn to talk better than parrots.

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17. Bela Lugosi was buried in full Dracula costume—cape and all.

18. Central Park's lampposts contain a set of four numbers that can help you navigate. The first two tell you the nearest street, and the next two tell you whether you're closer to the east or west side of the park (even numbers signal east, odd signals west).

Central Park
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19. A teacher wrote of a young Roald Dahl on his school report card: "I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended."

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20. At least 10 Blockbuster stores are still operating in the U.S.

21. Blood donors in Sweden receive a thank you text when their blood is used.

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22. Mr. Rogers always mentioned out loud that he was feeding his fish because a young blind viewer once asked him to do so. She wanted to know the fish were OK.

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23. Long before rap battles, there was "flyting": the exchange of witty, insulting verses. The verbal throwdowns were popular in England and Scotland from the 5th to 16th centuries.

Scotland flag
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24. Melbourne gave some of its trees email addresses so residents could report problems. Instead, the trees received love letters.

Trees
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25. An estimated 1 million dogs in the U.S. have been named primary beneficiary in their owners' wills.

Captain dog
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26. At Petrified Forest National Park, visitors sometimes break the rules (and the law) by taking rocks home with them. According to rangers, they often end up returning the stolen goods in the mail—along with an apology note.

Petrified Forest National Park
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27. The Russians showed up 12 days late to the 1908 Olympics in London because they were using the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.

Olympic Rings
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

28. Maya Angelou was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

Maya Angelou
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

29. In Japan, letting a sumo wrestler make your baby cry is considered good luck.

Sumo wrestlers making babies cry (for luck!)
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30. J.K. Simmons has been the voice of the Yellow Peanut M&M since the late 1990s.

J.K. Simmons
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

31. Count von Count's love of numbers isn't just a quirky character trait—in traditional vampire folklore, the bloodsuckers have arithmomania, a compulsion to count.

Count von Count
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

32. In Great Britain and Japan, black cats are perceived as auspicious. In the English Midlands, new brides are given black cats to bless their marriage, and the Japanese believe that black cats are good luck—particularly for single women.

Black cat
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33. Portland was named by a coin flip. Had the coin landed the other way, the city would be Boston, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon
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34. During World War I, a Canadian soldier made a black bear his pet and named her Winnipeg. “Winnie” was later a resident of the London Zoological Gardens where she was an adored attraction, especially to a boy named Christopher Robin, son of author A.A. Milne. The boy even named his teddy bear after her.

Christopher Robin Milne
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

35. Sleep literally cleans your brain. During slumber, more cerebrospinal fluid flushes through the brain to wash away harmful proteins and toxins that build up during the day.

Sleeping
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36. Neil Armstrong's astronaut application arrived a week past the deadline. A friend slipped the tardy form in with the others.

37. Due to the restaurant's reputation for staying open in extreme weather, the so-called “Waffle House Index” is informally used by FEMA to gauge storm severity.

Waffle House
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

38. The first sales pitch for the Nerf ball was “Nerf: You can’t hurt babies or old people!”

Nerf
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

39. The manchineel tree is nicknamed the "Tree of Death" for good reason: Touching it can leave chemical burns on your skin, its fruit is toxic, and its bark—when burned—can cause blindness.

Manchineel Tree, Mustique
Jason English/Mustique

40. If drivers adhere to the 45 mph speed limit on a stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico, the road's rumble strips will play a rendition of "America the Beautiful."

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41. Russian cosmonauts used to pack a shotgun in case they landed in Siberia and had to fend off bears.

Siberia
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42. Space has a distinct smell: a bouquet of diesel fumes, gunpowder, and barbecue. The aroma is mostly produced by dying stars.

Space
NASA/ESA via Getty Images

43. Before settling on the Seven Dwarfs we know today, Disney considered Chesty, Tubby, Burpy, Deafy, Hickey, Wheezy, and Awful.

Seven Dwarfs
Ryan Wendler/Disney Parks via Getty Images

44. The annual number of worldwide shark bites is 10 times less than the number of people bitten by other people in New York.

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45. In 1997 a Louisville woman left actor Charles Bronson all of her money in a handwritten will—a total of about $300,000. She'd never met him; she was just a fan.

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46. Carly Simon's dad is the Simon of Simon and Schuster. He co-founded the company.

Carly Simon
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47. Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course offered by Penn State. (They decided to split one course.)

Ben & Jerry
ADE JOHNSON/AFP/Getty Images

48. After an online vote in 2011, Toyota announced that the official plural of Prius was Prii.

Prii
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

49. At the 1905 wedding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt gave away the bride.

Teddy Roosevelt
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50. Tootsie Rolls were added to soldiers' rations in World War II for their durability in all weather conditions.

Halloween Candy
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51. When Canada's Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was "Bob."

Skyline, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
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52. After OutKast sang "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," Polaroid released a statement: "Shaking or waving can actually damage the image."

Polaroid
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

53. Marie Curie remains the only person to earn Nobel prizes in two different sciences.

Marie Curie
Keystone/Getty Images

54. The Starry Night depicts Vincent van Gogh's view from the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum.

Starry Night
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

55. The ampersand symbol is formed from the letters in et—the Latin word for "and."

Ampersand
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56. Army ants that misinterpret the scent trails left by other ants will sometimes break from the crowd and march in circles. If enough ants join, they can form massive "death spirals."

Army ants
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57. A solar eclipse helped end a six-year war in 585 BCE. When the sky suddenly darkened during a battle between the Lydians and the Medes in modern Turkey, soldiers took it as a sign to cease fighting.

Solar Eclipse 2017
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

58. Wendy's founder Dave Thomas dropped out of high school but earned his GED in 1993. His GED class voted him Most Likely to Succeed.

Dave Thomas
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59. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826—exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence
Chris Hondros/Newsmakers

60. Dogs are capable of understanding up to 250 words and gestures. The average dog is as intelligent as a two-year-old child.

Smart dog
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61. Bubbles keep your bath water warmer longer.

Bath
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62. Scientists have found evidence of take-out restaurants in the remains of Pompeii.

Pompeii
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63. Fried chicken was brought to America by Scottish immigrants.

Fried chicken
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64. Peter Durand patented the tin can in 1810. Ezra Warner patented a can opener in 1858. In between, people used chisels and hammers.

Can opener
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65. There are 71 streets in Atlanta with "Peachtree" in their name.

Peachtree Street
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66. Goats have rectangular pupils.

Goat eyes
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67. The bend in a flamingo's leg isn't a knee—it's an ankle.

Flamingo
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68. In 1946, Boston owner Walter Brown chose the nickname Celtics over Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns.

Kyrie Irving
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69. After It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown aired, Charles Schulz was overwhelmed with candy shipments sent from kids who were concerned for Charlie, who got rocks instead of treats in his Halloween sack.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for DIFF

70. One of the world's largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons—a U.S. Navy base near Seattle—is partially defended by trained dolphins.

Dolphin
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71. It's illegal for supermarkets in France to waste food. Supermarkets must either compost or donate unsold or nearly expired goods to charity.

Produce
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72. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

Pringles
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

73. A new baby can cost new parents 750 hours of sleep in the first year.

Crying baby
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74. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 2000, Americans would only be working 20 hours a week with seven weeks vacation.

Cheers
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75. For one day in 1998, Topeka, Kansas, renamed itself "ToPikachu" to mark Pokemon's U.S. debut.

Pikachu
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76. Truman Capote said he was the only person who'd met John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Sirhan Sirhan.

Truman Capote
Evening Standard/Getty Images

77. Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election. She never paid the fine.

Susan B. Anthony
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

78. Canned pumpkin isn't actually pumpkin. Even purees that advertise as "100 percent pumpkin" are actually made of a range of different winter squashes.

Pumpkin
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79. When Gene Wilder accepted the role of Willy Wonka, he had one condition: In his first appearance, Wilder wanted Wonka to limp toward the crowd with a cane in hand before falling into a perfect somersault and jumping back up. The reason? “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

Willy Wonka
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

80. Dr. Seuss said he expected to spend "a week or so" writing The Cat in the Hat. It actually took a year and a half.

Dr. Seuss / Hollywood Walk of Fame
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81. The Reese in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups is Harry Burnett Reese, a former Hershey employee who created his famous candy in the 1920s.

Reese's
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

82. The plural of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac.

Cul-de-sac
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83. Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt was allergic to moon dust.

Harrison Schmitt
AFP/Getty Images

84. At the Gettysburg reunion in 1913, two men purchased a hatchet, walked to the site where their regiments had fought, and buried it.

Gettysburg at 50
Library of Congress

85. "Bloodcurdling" isn't just an expression: Research shows that watching horror movies can increase a certain clotting protein in our bloodstreams.

Scary movie
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86. An episode of Peppa Pig was pulled from Australian television for teaching children not to fear spiders.

Peppa Pig
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87. A group of pugs is called a grumble.

Grumble of pugs
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88. Before he wrote Goosebumps, R.L. Stine wrote the jokes for Bazooka Joe wrappers.

R.L. Stine
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

89. In 1998, the U.S. Army tried developing a telepathic ray gun "where words could be transmitted to be heard like the spoken word, except that it could only be heard within a person’s head."

Man covering face
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90. In 1967, the Nigerian Civil War ground to a halt for two days because both sides wanted to watch Pelé play in an exhibition soccer match.

Pele
STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

91. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

Welcome to Brooklyn
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92. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He calls sick kids in hospitals and chats with them in character.

Jim Cummings
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93. Before Google launched Gmail, "G-Mail" was the name of a free email service offered by Garfield's website.

Garfield looming
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

94. Before the Nazis invaded Paris, H.A. and Margret Rey fled on bicycles. They were carrying the manuscript for Curious George.

Curious George
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95. In colonial America, lobster wasn't exactly a delicacy. It was so cheap and plentiful it was often served to prisoners.

Lobster
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96. Crayola means "oily chalk." The name combines craie (French for "chalk") and ola (short for "oleaginous," or "oily").

Oily chalk
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97. Truman Show Delusion is a mental condition marked by a patient's belief that he or she is the star of an imaginary reality show.

Truman Show
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98. Cookie Monster is not changing his name. In a 2012 episode he said, "We've got to stop this Veggie Monster rumor before me reputation ruined."

Cookie Monster and Elmo
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99. Google's founders were willing to sell to Excite for under $1 million in 1999—but Excite turned them down.

Excite@Home
David McNew/Newsmakers

100. The medical term for ice cream headaches is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Ice cream
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101. Although Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, he’s the only Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach with a losing record.

Kansas Jayhawks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

102. Wisconsin is the Badger State because the area's lead miners used to spend winters in tunnels burrowed into hills. Like badgers.

Badger
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103. In 1999, the U.S. government paid the Zapruder family $16 million for the film of JFK's assassination.

JFK in Dallas
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104. Before he became president, Abraham Lincoln was wrestling champion of his county. He fought in nearly 300 matches and lost only one.

Young Lincoln
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

105. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know. But on average, a Licking Machine made at Purdue needed 364.

Tootsie Pops
Mental Floss

106. Barcelona is home to hundreds of playgrounds for seniors. The spaces are meant to promote fitness and combat loneliness in elderly citizens.

Playground for seniors
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107. In Switzerland, it's illegal to own only one guinea pig.

Guinea pigs
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108. After leaving office, Ronald Reagan was offered the role of Hill Valley's mayor in Back to the Future III.

President Reagan waves goodbye
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109. Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare side effect of brain trauma. Patients speak their native language in a foreign accent.

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110. Queen Elizabeth II has had over 30 corgis in her lifetime.

STF/AFP/Getty Images

111. Relative to their bodies, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain in the dog world.

One smart corgi
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112. The "mystery" flavor of Dum Dums is a combination of the end of one batch of candy and the beginning of another.

Dum Dums Mystery Flavor
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113. A banana is a berry.

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114. In 1971, a Dallas man named Mariano Martinez invented the frozen margarita machine. The 26-year-old was inspired by the Slurpee machine at 7-Eleven.

Frozen margarita

115. In 2016, a rogue bloodhound named Ludvine joined a half-marathon in Alabama. She ran the entire 13.1 miles and finished in 7th place.

Bloodhound
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116. The Library of Congress regularly receives requests for books that don't exist. The most common is the President's Book of Secrets, from the 2007 movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

117. In 2014, Tinder made its first match on the continent of Antarctica. Not surprisingly, both parties involved were research scientists.

Antarctica
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

118. When times get tough, elephants will comfort each other by stroking loved ones with their trunks and emitting small chirps.

Elephants
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119. A double rainbow occurs when sunlight is reflected twice inside a raindrop. If you look closely, you can see that the colors of the secondary rainbow appear in reverse order.

Double Rainbow
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120. There's a Nikola Tesla statue in Palo Alto that provides free Wi-Fi.

Nikola Tesla statue
Mental Floss

121. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships are held in Finland. One winner (not pictured) said he prepared for the event by "mainly drinking."

VILLE MYLLYNEN/AFP/Getty Images

122. In the '50s, Marilyn Monroe promised nightclub owner Charlie Morrison she'd be in the front row every night if he booked Ella Fitzgerald. He agreed, and she was true to her word. "After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again," Fitzgerald said. "She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn't know it."

Marilyn
Baron/Getty Images

123. Frank Sinatra has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for film, one for music, and one for television.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

124. One April day in 1930, the BBC reported, "There is no news." Instead they played piano music.

There is no news
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125. Continental plates drift as fast as fingernails grow.

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126. Elvis Presley's manager sold "I Hate Elvis" badges as a way to make money off of people who weren't buying his merchandise.

I Hate Elvis
Mental Floss

127. LEGO has a temperature-controlled underground vault in Denmark with nearly every set they've ever made.

Lego
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11 Secrets of Bodyguards
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Tullio M. Puglia, Getty Images

When CEOs, celebrities, and the extremely wealthy need personal protection, they call in men and women with a particular set of skills. Bodyguards provide a physical barrier against anyone wishing their clients harm, but there’s a lot more to the job—and a lot that people misunderstand about the profession. To get a better idea of what it takes to protect others, Mental Floss spoke with several veteran security experts. Here’s what they told us about being in the business of guaranteeing safety.

1. BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.

When working crowd control or trying to corral legions of screaming teenagers, having a massive physical presence comes in handy. But not all "close protection specialists" need to be the size of a professional wrestler. “It really depends on the client,” says Anton Kalaydjian, the founder of Guardian Professional Security in Florida and former head of security for 50 Cent. “It’s kind of like shopping for a car. Sometimes they want a big SUV and sometimes they want something that doesn’t stick out at all. There’s a need for a regular-looking guy in clothes without an earpiece, not a monster.”

2. GUNS (AND FISTS) ARE PRETTY MUCH USELESS.

An armed bodyguard pulls a gun out of a holster
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Depending on the environment—protecting a musician at a concert is different from transporting the reviled CEO of a pharmaceutical company—bodyguards may or may not come armed. According to Kent Moyer, president and CEO of World Protection Group and a former bodyguard for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, resorting to gunplay means the security expert has pretty much already failed. “People don’t understand this is not a business where we fight or draw guns,” Moyer says. “We’re trained to cover and evacuate and get out of harm’s way. The goal is no use of force.” If a guard needs to draw a gun to respond to a gun, Moyer says he’s already behind. “If I fight, I failed. If I draw a gun, I failed.”

3. SOMETIMES THEY’RE HIRED TO PROTECT EMPLOYERS FROM EMPLOYEES.

A security guard stands by a door
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Workplace violence has raised red flags for companies who fear retribution during layoffs. Alan Schissel, a former New York City police sergeant and founder of Integrated Security, says he dispatches guards for what he calls “hostile work termination” appointments. “We get a lot of requests to provide armed security in a discreet manner while somebody is being fired,” he says. “They want to be sure the individual doesn’t come back and retaliate.”

4. SOME OF THEM LOVE TMZ.

For protection specialists who take on celebrity clients, news and gossip site TMZ.com can prove to be a valuable resource. “I love TMZ,” Moyer says. “It’s a treasure trove for me to see who has problems with bodyguards or who got arrested.” Such news is great for client leads. Moyer also thinks the site’s highly organized squad of photographers can be a good training scenario for protection drills. “You can look at paparazzi as a threat, even though they’re not, and think about how you’d navigate it.” Plus, having cameras at a location before a celebrity shows up can sometimes highlight information leaks in their operation: If photographers have advance notice, Moyer says, then security needs to be tightened up.

5. THEY DON’T LIVE THE LIFE YOU THINK THEY DO.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
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Because guards are often seen within arm’s reach of a celebrity, some think they must be having the same experiences. Not so. “A big misconception is that we’re living the same life as celebrities do,” Kalaydjian says. “Yes, we’re on a private jet sometimes, but we’re not enjoying the amenities. We might live in their house, but we’re not enjoying their pool. You stay to yourself, make your rounds.” Guards that get wrapped up in a fast-paced lifestyle don’t tend to last long, he says.

6. SOMETIMES THEY’RE JUST THERE FOR SHOW.

For some, being surrounded by a squad of serious-looking people isn’t a matter of necessity. It’s a measure of status on the level of an expensive watch or a fast car. Firms will sometimes get calls from people looking for a way to get noticed by hiring a fleet of guards when there's no threat involved. “It’s a luxury amenity,” Schissel says. “It’s more of a ‘Look at me, look at them’ thing,” agrees Moyer. “There’s no actual threat. It’s about the show. I turn those down. We do real protection.”

7. THEY CAN MAKE THEIR CLIENT'S DAY MORE EFFICIENT.

A bodyguard escorts a client through a group of photographers
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Because guards will scope out destinations in advance, they often know exactly how to enter and exit locations without fumbling for directions or dealing with site security. That’s why, according to Moyer, CEOs and celebrities can actually get more done during a work day. “If I’m taking you to Warner Bros., I know which gate to go in, I’ve got credentials ahead of time, and I know where the bathrooms are.” Doing more in a day means more money—which means a return on the security investment.

8. “BUDDYGUARDS” ARE A PROBLEM.

When evaluating whether or not to take on a new employee, Kalaydjian weeds out anyone looking to share in a client’s fame. “I’ve seen guys doing things they shouldn’t,” he says. “They’re doing it to be seen.” Bodyguards posting pictures of themselves with clients on social media is a career-killer: No one in the industry will take a “buddyguard” seriously. Kalaydjian recalls the one time he smirked during a 12-year-stint guarding the same client, something so rare his employer commented on it. “It’s just not the side you portray on duty.”

9. SOCIAL MEDIA MAKES THEIR JOB HARDER.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
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High-profile celebrities maintain their visibility by engaging their social media users, which often means posting about their travels and events. For fans, it can provide an interesting perspective into their routine. For someone wishing them harm, it’s a road map. “Sometimes they won’t even tell me, and I’ll see on Snapchat they’ll be at a mall at 2 p.m.,” Kalaydjian says. “I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

10. NOT EVERY CELEBRITY IS PAYING FOR THEIR OWN PROTECTION.

The next time you see a performer surrounded by looming personal protection staff, don’t assume he or she is footing the bill. “A lot of celebrities can’t afford full-time protection,” Moyer says, referring to the around-the-clock supervision his agency and others provide. “Sometimes, it’s the movie or TV show they’re doing that’s paying for it. Once the show is over, they no longer have it, or start getting the minimum.”

11. THEY DON’T LIKE BEING CALLED “BODYGUARDS.”

A bodyguard puts his hand up to the camera
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Few bodyguards will actually refer to themselves as bodyguards. Moyer prefers executive protection agents, because, he says, bodyguard tends to carry a negative connotation of big, unskilled men. “There is a big group of dysfunctional people with no formal training who should not be in the industry,” he says. Sometimes, a former childhood friend can become “security,” a role they’re not likely to be qualified for. Moyer and other firms have specialized training courses, with Moyer's taking cues from Secret Service protocols. But Moyer also cautions that agencies enlisting hyper-driven combat specialists like Navy SEALs or SWAT team members aren't the answer, either. “SEALs like to engage and fight, destroying the bad guy. Our goal is, we don’t want to be in the same room as the bad guy.”

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9 Wild Moments from Winter Olympics History
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With the Pyeongchang Olympics nearing their final weekend in South Korea, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the wildest and most unpredictable moments of Winter Games past.

1. AUSTRALIA WINS ITS FIRST WINTER GOLD MEDAL WHEN SPEED SKATER WAITS FOR HIS COMPETITORS TO FALL DOWN

Knowing he was overmatched by his fellow athletes during the 1000 Meter Short Track Speed Skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Australian Steven Bradbury devised a strategy of waiting in the back of the pack on the off chance that his competitors might trip up. Amazingly, the strategy worked when a disqualification in the quarterfinals got him through to the semis and a crash sent him to the finals.

In the final, favorite Apollo Anton Ohno and the three other competing skaters collided in an epic crash; the trailing Bradbury was close enough to the pack to cross the finish line before any of the fallen skaters, becoming Australia's first gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

2. ALPINE SKIER HERMANN MAIER FLIES OFF THE COURSE AT 70 MPH, GETS UP AND WALKS AWAY

In downhill alpine skiing, skiers travel at extremely high velocities (typically 60 to 85 miles per hour) down courses that closely follow the mountain's fall line.

In 1998, Nagano Olympics race officials were worried about the downhill course—specifically, a steep angle between the 6th and 7th gates. They altered this portion but the section still posed a danger.

Austrian Hermann Maier finished first in the World Cup standings before the Olympics but had a reputation for recklessness within the skiing circuit—in fact, according to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, “caution was not a word in Maier's vocabulary." Maier didn't slow down before the aforementioned dangerous turn in Nagano and went flying off the course at 70 miles per hour, tumbling to a halt some 50 meters away. In a sport where injuries—and even deaths—aren't unheard of, Maier shocked TV audiences by getting up and walking away with nothing more than a bruised shoulder.

Benefiting from a 24-hour weather delay on his next event, the Super-G, Maier used the extra rest to get back in full form and took home the gold. He also came in first in the Giant Slalom three days later.

3. WOMEN CHEAT BY HEATING UP THEIR SLEDS


Wikimedia Commons

There have been a limited number of cases of cheating in the Winter Olympics (far fewer than in the Summer Olympics), but that doesn't mean it’s an impossibility. Just ask Ortrun Enderlein.

Enderlein, the defending luge champion, and her two East German teammates aroused suspicion by showing up just before their runs and leaving the scene hastily after. Enderlein won gold and her teammates placed 3rd and 4th, but upon closer inspection, it was discovered that their sleds had been heated immediately before the races, which reduced friction with the ice and resulted in faster times. The three were disqualified and the East German Olympic Committee blamed the affair on a "capitalist revanchist plot.”

4. SKI JUMPER RALLIES NATIONAL PRIDE BY FINISHING LAST

English plasterer Michael Edwards traveled to Lake Placid, New York two years before the 1988 Calgary Olympics to fulfill his dream of making the event as a downhill skier. When money ran short, he decided to switch to ski jumping because it was significantly cheaper and there would be no competition at the national trials. Edwards became the first Olympic ski jumper in British history, but was far below the standards of the rest of the field.

Edwards crashed at the World Championships the year before the '88 Games and was ridiculed by the international press, who dubbed him “Mr. Magoo” due to his thick-rimmed glasses and heavy frame.

To the British, however, Edwards became a great source of fascination, which turned into a full-fledged national craze as he became the first Olympic ski jumper in the country's history and successfully landed his attempt at the Calgary Games. Although he didn't even score half the total points of any other competitor, he earned admiration worldwide and was given the nickname "Eddie the Eagle" by the President of the International Olympic Committee during the closing ceremony.

Sadly, many others in the Olympic community did not take him seriously, and they raised the qualifying standards to prevent Edwards from participating in the future. This didn't stop him from trying, but he failed to qualify on three successive occasions. Today, Edwards still plasters for a living and estimates that 70 percent of his income comes from speaking engagements.

In 2016, Eddie the Eagle, a biopic about Edwards’s life featuring Hugh Jackman (not playing Edwards), was released in theaters.

5. GOLD MEDALIST IN OLYMPICS' INAUGURAL SNOWBOARDING COMPETITION GETS BUSTED FOR MARIJUANA

At the 1998 Nagano Games, snowboarding was introduced in an effort to make the Olympics more appealing to a younger audience. Still, there was some trepidation about the perceived rambunctious lifestyle of the snowboarding community and how it would fit in with the formality of the Olympics.

Nothing better illustrated this clash of values than when Canadian Ross Rebagliati became the inaugural winner in the Parallel Giant Slalom and was promptly stripped of his medal three days after the event for testing positive for marijuana.

Rebagliati claimed to have ingested it second-hand at a party and the Canadian Olympic delegation successfully appealed the IOC's decision on the basis that marijuana isn't a performance-enhancing drug. He got his medal back before the Games ended.

Today, 20 years after the controversy, Rebagliati has moved on from his snowboarding past and is trying his hand at entrepreneurism: he’s the founder of Ross’ Gold, a cannabis business.

6. NANCY KERRIGAN VS. TONYA HARDING


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Tonya Harding was an ice skating prodigy from a broken home who ascended to the world stage in the early '90s. As her financial security and world ranking started to decline in the months leading up to the Olympics, Harding became frustrated and directed her anger at fellow American Nancy Kerrigan, who was ascending in the world standings and landing lucrative commercial endorsements.

Harding's on-again-off-again husband Jeff Gillooly conspired with two other men to attack and injure Kerrigan before the 1994 Olympics. They carried out the hit after Kerrigan's practice skate before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Shane Stant, Gillooly's hired man, hit Kerrigan on the knee with a police baton as she was talking to a reporter in a stadium hallway. He escaped by diving through a plexiglass door before running to a getaway car.

The attack resulted in a bruise, but because there was no bone or ligament damage, Kerrigan was able to perform and was selected (along with Harding, who was under investigation for the attack) for the U.S. Olympic team. At the Lillehammer Games, Kerrigan famously skated to a silver medal after terrific back-to-back performances while Harding, disgraced, finished in eighth place. Harding's life, and the scandal surrounding her competition with Kerrigan, has been turned into the Oscar-nominated film, I, Tonya.

According to Olympic Historian David Wallechinsky, when CBS executives thanked their staff in Norway for the great ratings (the figure skating finals were the one of the most watched events in television history at the time), a CBS employee wrote back: "Don't thank us. Thank Tonya."

7. TWO AMERICAN HOCKEY TEAMS ARE SENT TO THE OLYMPICS, BOTH ARE DISQUALIFIED


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Controversy erupted before the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz over whether the American Hockey Association or the Amateur Athletic Union was the chief governing authority for hockey in the United States. American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage refused to sanction the AHA because of their commercial sponsorships, but the International Ice Hockey Federation officially ruled that the AAU was to be replaced by the AHA.

Amid the confusion, both teams made their way to St. Moritz to compete. Before they were set to march in the Opening Ceremony, the Swiss Olympic Organizing Committee banned the AAU. Because they were favored by Brundage, though, the AAU team got the honor of representing the U.S. in the opening ceremony, while the AHA team—which was actually allowed to compete by the organizing committee—had to sit in the stands.

8. LUGE TRACK WITH A HISTORY OF FATAL ACCIDENTS SELECTED AS SITE OF INAUGURAL LUGE COMPETITION


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Luge racers regularly hit speeds of over 95 miles per hour, meaning that even the smallest shift in body position can easily result in catastrophe. This was evident before the 2010 Vancouver Games, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili careened off the track during a training run and died of his injuries.

It was an eerie replay of the luge's first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games. Two weeks before the Innsbruck Games in 1964, Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a British RAF pilot who was inexperienced in the sport, flew off the track and died during a training run. Additionally, a German doubles luge team was injured on the track in a separate accident. The track had had several fatal accidents when it opened decades before, and although it was modified thereafter, Olympic participants had to lobby for further safety precautions to reduce some of the danger.

9. FRENCH JUDGE CONFESSES TO THROWING THE COMPETITION


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The pairs figure skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics resulted in a massive scandal that gave wind to the long-standing notion that figure skating judges can be swayed. Russian competitors Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze made noticeable errors in their long program, while Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier performed a flawless routine that had the crowd chanting "Six! Six! Six!"

When the judges ruled 5-4 in favor of the Russians and loud boos rang from the arena, the Canadian Olympic officials filed a protest. Protests filed by the losing party have become relatively common in the Olympics and the exercise is often a symbolic and ultimately fruitless gesture. But in this case, some dirt actually turned up.

In the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that the swing vote, French judge Marie-Rene Le Gougne, was up for a seat on the International Skating Union's powerful technical committee, and reports surfaced that she confided to a British referee a few days earlier that she had been pressured by her own national committee to throw her vote for the Russian pairs.

Le Gougne changed her story a few days later in an effort to save face, but her contradictory statements only exacerbated the coverage into a full-blown media frenzy dubbed “skate-gate.” In the end, Le Gougne was suspended for three years, the Canadians were awarded a second pair of gold medals, and the sport underwent reform with judges' scores being kept secret and chosen at random.

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