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A Concise History Of Sports People Celebrating Too Early

By Conor Neville
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Gwen Torrence

One of the more unsympathetic ways to tell someone they haven't in fact won a gold medal. Torrence, Olympic gold medalist in 1992, was being interviewed by American TV after crossing the finish line first in the 200m at the World Championships in Gothenburg in 1995. Some man called out in a sharp, nerdish, somewhat emotionless Scandinavian voice that Torrence was disqualified for running outside of her lane. Memorably she whipped around in the middle of the interview while hearing this, with a look of sheer horror on her face.

[Watch Video]


English Rugby, 2011

Despite having the humblest of humble men, Stuart Lancaster, steering things these days, the English rugby fraternity are still regularly accused of the most appalling hubris. Certainly, memories like this are hard to shake off. Chris Ashton and Ben Foden featured in this video for Nike which was filmed (crucially) during, not after, that year's Six Nations championship.

Unwisely, especially given the England rugby team's propensity to blow Grand Slams on the final day (1990, 1999, 2000, 2001, and we can add 2011 and 2013 to that list since), the video proclaimed that the Rose were 'Grand Slam Champions, 2011' and the message was 'Onwards.'

As it turned out, 'onwards' involved a dreadful showing at the 2011 World Cup, a change of coach and a largely new team the following year. Naturally, after England were utterly spanked by Ireland at Lansdowne Road, the video was leaked as a matter of public service to ensure maximum humiliation.



Steve Ovett

The gold standard in celebrating too early. Steve Ovett was determined to put his hands up in triumph before the race was over. He didn't even let an early scare stop him. Tracey appeared to be enraged by Ovett sticking his hands up, and proceeded to sprint the final 100 metres like he was trying to evade a gunman. One of the sweetest of Irish victories.



Cocky American Football Players

American footballers have never been the most self-effacing people. Not for them, the stubbornly low-key Alan Shearer means of celebrating a score. Each touchdown has to be merely the prelude to some ludicrously showy and intricate post-score dance.


One of the greatest exponents (nice GAA encyclopedia term there) of the premature celebration is DeSean Jackson (has there ever been a more American football name than that?) who is quite prolific in this regard, performing the premature celebration to a tee twice in the last couple of years. Another who mastered the noble art is Danny Trevathan who pulled it off for the Denver Broncos in the latest season.




The French football team and their media, 1993

Possibly an understandable one here for France's failure to reach the World Cup in USA in 1994 represents, arguably, the biggest late collapse in football history. The most self-defeating nation in world football were cruising in Group D, sitting serenely on top of the table ahead of Sweden and Bulgaria.

Gerard Houllier's men needed one point (yes, one point) from their remaining two home games against the behemoths of Israel and Bulgaria. For Israel in 1993, read someone like Georgia today. The French newspapers boldly printed the following days headline which was to be 'QUALIFIED.' Not only that but, according to Phillipe Auclair in his brilliant biography of Eric Cantona, a number of the French superstars (not, apparently, including Cantona) decided to prepare for the little Israelis by going out on the razz and taking home some women.


Unbelievably, the French were drawing 2-2 with minutes remaining, a dreadfully underwhelming result but enough. To the amazement of everyone present, the Israeli's managed to snatch a win in the final minutes.

This was disturbing but still, all they needed was a draw at home to the qualification-chasing Bulgaria four days later and it would be enough. Cantona scored early, and France breathed a sigh of relief. However the dogged Bulgarians equalised on the stroke of half-time. Clearly, the French were spooked.

Late in the game, David Ginola (who was somewhat unfairly blamed for the whole fiasco by the typically classless Houllier) over-hit a cross when he'd have been wiser to hold it in the corner and Bulgaria's counter-attack ended with Emil Kostadinov smashing the ball past track-suited goalkeeper Bernard Lama. Houllier and Aime Jacquet looked like they'd seen a ghost. As a nation, the French would boo a children's nativity play if they felt it wasn't up to scratch, and truly the booing that night in the Parc des Princes was something to behold.




Sam Vesty

Celebrating before touching down for a try is universally discouraged by approximately all coaches and teammates in world rugby, but some players still can't help themselves. Most get away with it unfortunately. However, Sam Vesty proceeded to soak up the crowd's acclaim as he was about to secure a bonus point win for Bath against Wasps in the Aviva Premiership in 2012.


However, he quickly had to soak up Tom Varndell's magnificent, blind-sided tackle as the winger got himself between Vesty, the ball and the ground. The Bath crowd jeered the 'No Try' decision but some couldn't stop themselves smiling. As coach Brad Davies said afterwards, "we should have had a bonus point victory and again that's down to us (how very generous of him to attribute this mistake to the collective) but there's a lesson there don't celebrate before you get the ball down... unless you've got the gas to do it."


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