London Spy

Olympic officials miss world record holder’s hammer throw

London Spy

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Betty Heidler, looking dismayed as she struggled in the women's hammer final

The women's Olympic hammer final might not be the highest-profile event at the Games, but it became an unlikely focus of controversy and drama on Friday night.

Olympic officials completely missed the fifth throw of Germany's Betty Heidler - no doubt they were too busy playing with their radio-control Minis - and with no idea where it had landed, were unable to measure it.

If you think that sounds unbelievable in a stadium containing 80,000 people and almost 100 TV cameras, you've heard nothing yet. Heidler is no also-ran with no chance of a medal: she is the world record holder and was hot favourite to win the competition. The hammer was also in its critical final stages, and considering Heidler was on-course to finish a shocking ninth you'd have thought everyone would be paying attention.

Apparently not, however. With no idea which of the many divots on the turf was the right one to measure, officials decided that there was no alternative other than to give Heidler an extra chance. She had a go, but failed to improve on her opening throw of 73.90m.

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Heidler talks to officials after her throw was missed

That left Tatyana Lysenko of Russia celebrating gold, Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk celebrating silver and China's Zhang Wenxiu delighted with her bronze.

Yet the story wasn't quite finished. A bright spark among the officials - with a little prompting from the German and her team - suggested that maybe one or two of those 100 cameras might have seen where the hammer landed, even if the judges didn't. TV replays were consulted, Heidler's mark was found and measured... and the delighted Heidler suddenly became the recipient of a bronze medal.

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Heidler poses next to the board recording her phantom throw that won bronze

But the Olympics give, and the Olympics take away. Much less delighted was Zhang, who was given the bad news a few minutes later. All she'll have left of the bronze that never was is this picture of her holding her national flag up in celebration:

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Zhang Wenxiu celebrates 'winning' bronze

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