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AS the countdown to London 2012 reaches its climax, we take a look at West London's Olympic legacy - whether through Olympians from the area, or those who have had a lasting impact on it. Today, with 12 days left, Paul Warburton looks at Dorando Pietri's defining moment at the 1908 Games.
THERE is no doubt that sometimes the gallant loser lives longer in the memory.
I give you Jean van Jean Van de Velde on the cusp of winning the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie hopelessly wading about in the water, or for older readers, the dramatic collapse of Devon Loch as the horse was about to triumph at the 1956 Grand National.
And to prove it, without looking, who did eventually win the two events? You see what I mean?
Most Olympics fans also know about little Dorando Pietri and what he failed to do at the White City Games of 1908.
One hundred and three years ago last Sunday, the little baker (he was barely 5ft 3ins) from Correggio, Italy lined up with 56 others on the east lawn at Windsor Castle on a day where the temperature was in the 90s.
Contrary to the myth that Pietri started conservatively, there are photographs showing him charging down the hill from the castle in second place.
He was never far from the front, and was on course for a time that would have beaten the existing Olympic record by 11 minutes.
Foolhardy? It was the obvious conclusion given the heat.
But for a talented athlete who had been competing four years, and one off the back of a race back home where he ran 2hrs:38mins for 40k – incredible at the time – he was doing OK when he reached the White City stadium, more than 10 minutes ahead of second.
My personal conclusion is having run to the stadium tired but OK, the dark tunnel and the sudden sunlight hitting him again when he emerged was a disorientating factor.
And in a panic, went the wrong way, got turned and got more dizzy and closer to collapse.
Of course, after he did collapse and staggered to the finish where helped by well-meaning but misguided officials, he was eventually disqualified.
Some believe the portly gentleman on his left in the famous picture was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – the author of Sherlock Holmes.
Not true. But such was Conan-Doyle’s influence – he was the JK Rowling of his time – he got the Queen to present a Gold Cup to the plucky Italian the following day.
Pietri’s fame was better than had he won, and he became a very successful professional athlete in the USA, winning 17 out of his 22 races and opening a hotel in San Remo on the proceeds.
His last marathon two years later saw him notch a world-record 2:38:48secs in Buenos Aries – good enough for 139th in this year’s London Marathon.
And so Pietri is remembered more for losing than winning. Dorando Close next to the BBC Studios in White City – site of the White City stadium – is named after him.
As for the official winner, John Hayes of the USA, Pietri beat him convincingly twice more on his US tour – and this time there were no disqualifications.