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  • 03/02/2009, 05:33PM ET

MMOTD- What is the most tragic in competition death in sports history?

Nickb23 - Holland has arrived! (146-39-16) vs Bigalke (142-42-16)
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Losing an athlete in the heat of battle is very uncommon and always unfortunate. Choosing the most tragic of all is quite difficult.

I selected someone thats loss was so tragic it made his sport rethink the way things were done in the sport before his passing. The changes made have had an enormous impact in a 100% positive way.

The popularity and ability of this man was such that his son has become one of the most overrated athletes of our time, thanks in most part to the name he bears.

His fingerprints have been and will be all over this vastly growing sport for many years to come. It can be said that without his prescence and aura the sport may still be having a tough time coming along in this ADD era we live in.

The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt is the man I have chosen.

It was the 2001 Daytona 500 (the Super Bowl of races). As usual Dale was wrecking havoc and working on another great race. Then in turn 4 the Nascar world was turned upside down as he wrecked and the aftermath was a 150 MPH slam straight into the wall, hours later the death of one of the greatest race car drivers ever was solemnly announced.

The sport will never be the same....


Great choice, Nick...


But there's an even greater tragedy that transpired on 18 July 1995. This incident, too, led to the implementation of greater safety measures. On this day, the world lost an Olympic gold medalist...

Descending the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the Pyrenees during stage fifteen of the 1995 Tour de France, Fabio Casartelli of the Motorola team was caught up in a crash involving several other riders. His head struck a concrete guardrail; despite the arrival of paramedics not ten seconds after his crash, he perished en route to a local hospital...

Why is this more tragic than Earnhardt's death?

First, while Dale Jr. had time to get to know his father, Casartelli's son had been born mere days before. He will never get to know his father...

Second, while the Daytona 500 was nearing completion as Earnhardt hit the wall, the rest of the Tour riders still had a full week of racing to go. They had the specter of Casartelli's death fresh in their minds with every pedalstroke...


The one positive to emerge, as with Earnhardt's death, was safety improvements. Casartelli's tragedy led to the mandatory use of hard-shell helmets in professional cycling...


I will not downplay the fact that Casartelli's son never got to meet him. That is a said fact.

I will say this, Earnhardt is stuck living in the shadows of one of the greatest race car drivers ever. He will most likely go down as one of the most over hyped drivers of all time. If his father was still here he could still be learning from the man today. He also would be fulfilling the legacy of DEI that his father surely wanted for him. His stepmother took that away from him long after his fathers passing.

Yes the Tour riders had a week left.

Nascar had a 35 race season staring them right in the eyes, no time to reflect. Just get to the shop, work on your car and race again without Dale. The most tragic part being Junior himself having to try and go out everyday and not think about what happened.

In fact not even 5 months later, these men had to return to the site of this horrible tragedy and race again.

How scary would that be?

Racing in the same place your daddy died before you even had time to truly reflect.

How deeply did this wound fans?

Ask Sterling Marlin, until Junior spoke up, he received numerous death threats for his part in the accident.


First, Earnhardt pere & fils definitely had a unique relationship. But that's why Casartelli's death is so more tragic. His son, mere days into this world, lost out on his chance at ever knowing his father...

Further, NASCAR drivers race knowing that the next lap could be their last -- Earnhardt was the 9th in-competition death at NASCAR's top level in 30 years of statistics among countless others at lower levels (over 300 in all forms of auto racing history)... Casartelli, on the other hand, was only the third fatality in the Tour's 90+ years of existence.

Third, Earnhardt's crash happened on the last turn of the race. As previously mentioned, Casartelli's Motorola teammates had to ride another week immediately after the death. The next stage, the peloton rode at a funerary pace, allowing the Motorola team to cross together first over the line in Pau.

Finally, the Casartelli death was far more gruesome. Earnhardt was ensconced in his car when he died; Casartelli was bleeding profusely from his bare head, on international television, dying in real time right before a global audience which then debated contentiously if a helmet would've saved him...


What do you think happens the day after the first race of the season?

The crews, drivers and even the owners go right back to work. The very next day. Every race takes immense preperation. These guys did NOT get a break to look back. Not his son. Not his crew. Not his life long friends, he had been racing with since he could drive.

They had 35 races left.

At least the Tour riders could use the next race to commemerate his life and reflect on what happened.

Not sure how the gruesome level of his death makes it more tragic but to each his own.

Let's finish with a bright side.

The event brought the whole Nascar community together for this man.

The fans held up 3 fingers during the 3rd lap of every race. Television coverage went silent during the 3rd lap for a solid year. Richard Childress placed a moratorium on the use of the #3.

Nascar has made numerous changes that were put into place in large part due to losing the life of this Legend. All of which have benefitted the sport in a huge way.

While fatalaties in Nacar use to be a distinct possibilty the loss of Dale has changed that problem.....


There's no discounting Dale's crash. Its impact felt far & wide through the world of motorsports... though mostly American motorsports. But in the end we're not talking about the aftermath... though that shouldn't be discounted.

This is why Casartelli's death was so tragic. This wasn't a man in the final seasons of a prestigious career who started one season too many. This was a young (25, about half Earnhardt's age) & promising rider, one who already held an Olympic gold medal. His death, in all its gore, was broadcast worldwide in the world's pinnacle of endurance racing. He left behind a son born while he was in the midst of the opening stages of his final race.

And then he was involved in a pile-up on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet. He was the one who ended up on top, flying into a concrete guardrail head-first. His death mandated the most important single safety device in cycling, the helmet -- and setting a good example for millions of children & other cyclists worldwide...

Including his own, the one he never got to see. Sorry, Dale Jr., but that name has & will take you places. Casartelli didn't have the opportunity to build that name for his son...

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