CAIRO – 28 June 2022: One of the prerequisites for winning the Olympics is to be alive, but that didn’t always happen.
Previously, the winner Arrhichion received the famous posthumous Olympic wreath after his death in one of sport's most bizarre stories. After defending his Olympic title for the third year in a row, Arrhichion was declared the winner, but he had passed away.
Arrhichion played Pankration, a brutal sport that blends boxing and wrestling to create an ancient version of what is now known today as mixed martial arts. In ancient Greece, the trio of wrestling, boxing and dancing were known together as Barea Athla, which means "heavy events". They were all especially popular at the time, according to the ancient-origins
Athletes known as pankratiasts used a range of techniques, including punching, kicking, striking, strangling, locking, genital twisting and throwing. The Greeks loved the perch so much that it was added to the Olympic Games in 648 BC and the pankratiasts were famous people of their time.
The fights usually took a very long time, as there was no time limit, no rounds, no points, and the only rules were a ban on biting and eye-gouging. The battles ended in only three scenarios; Knockout, death, or if an athlete submits usually by raising the index finger into the center of a painful fist. Referees armed with bars would push fighters into action if they tried to get a rest in some part of the huge football field.
Arrhichion was a well-known figure in the arena of pankration. He won the Olympic wreath in both 572 and 568 BC. However, during the 564 BC games, Arrhichion found himself in a state of suffocation. In a daring example of what the Greeks called Kartería, the idea of perseverance in the face of death or pain, Arrhichion was able to dislocate his opponent's ankle, forcing him to collapse to the ground and surrender.
Unfortunately, Arrhichion broke his neck in the process, and when the judges declared him a hero they found out that he had died. In the end, his dead body was crowned with an Olympic wreath, while back home a statue was erected to celebrate his victory, and it is now on display in the Olympic Museum in Olympia.