Jemima Sumgong survived a mid-race tumble and badly banged head to clinch a remarkable victory at the 2016 London Marathon. We hail the good, the bad and the ugly of other memorable trips, falls and mishaps.

Head for the win

With six top ten finishes but no win in marathon majors, Kenya’s Jemima Sumgong was earning a reputation as one of marathon running’s nearly women. Until London 2016.

Running with the lead group, at 21 miles she tangled with Aselefech Mergia and Mary Keitany and smacked her head on the floor. While those two skulked out of the running, Sumgong rubbed her bonce and powered on. With a mile to go she pulled away from defending champ Tigist Tufa to claim her maiden marathon major title in memorable fashion. Although after that bump we doubt she remembers much at all.

Selfless sportsmanship

Described as a “miracle run” on Pathe News, John Landy famously secured the 1956 Australian mile title despite losing around seven seconds while assisting Ron Clarke following a mid-race fall.

Known as Gentleman John, Landy – who two years earlier had become the second man to break the four minute mile barrier – accidentally spiked Clarke in the arm and shoulder after he’d been tripped by another athlete. In an amazing act of sportsmanship, Landy turned back to help his fellow Victorian.

Despite the deficit, Landy stormed in pursuit of his rivals and romped to the race win in 4:04.2. The packed crowd at Melborne’s Olympic Park went wild. In the same stadium nine months later he won Olympic 1500m bronze behind Irish middle-distance icon Ron Delany.

Jager bombs

Few fall on their way to an area record. That’s what makes Evan Jager’s performance in the steeplechase at last year’s Paris Diamond League both inspiring and heart-breaking.

The beautiful blonde-haired American dreamboy (we put him in the same bracket as the Swede from Philip Roth’s American Pastoral) took the lead at the antepenultimate steeplechase barrier, stepping away from Kenyan Jairus Birech to open a ten-metre gap at the bell. He still held that lead approaching the final barrier, but with lactate sloshing through his weary legs, Jager clipped it and hit the deck. Birech scampered past to claim the win in 7:58.83. Jager climbed from the canvas to battle home for a US and area record 8:00.45, agonisingly outside of the eight-minute mark.

“I don’t know if I was running too fast or was too tired,” Jager said after the race. “I gave it everything I had to get over the barrier, but my toe barely clipped it. I couldn’t stop myself from falling.”

Lloyd banks in shocker

The men’s 5000m at the 1990 Commonwealth Games was expected to be an all-Kenyan battle between reigning Olympic 5000m champion John Ngugi and the previous year’s number one ranked athlete Yobes Ondieki. However a brace of falls on the day led to a surprise victory for Australia’s unheralded Andrew Lloyd.

Ngugi and reigning European 5000m champion Jack Bucknor, or England, clashed around 800m in and crashed to the polyurethane. Ngugi bounced back up and recovered the gap of around 35m on the leaders to take control of the race after (he covered the 400m between 850-1250m in around 58 secs).

That was not the end of the drama. At 1600m Ondieki went down, and was left to battle it out with the stragglers. At the front, Ngugi stretched his advantage to around 40m with two laps to go. But his earlier burst of acceleration appeared to have taken its toll, and the chasing field slowly started to close in. 30-year-old Lloyd produced a late surge to emerge from the pack and zip past a crestfallen Ngugi with 15m remaining. Lloydy crossed the line in a PB 13:24.86, claiming gold ahead of the Kenyan favourite by just 0.08 secs.

El Guerrouj heartbreak

As world indoor champion over 1500m and silver medallist at the previous year’s outdoor world champs, 21-year-old emerging talent Hicham El Guerrouj was much fancied for gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The man he had to beat was the world champion and world 1500m record holder Nourredine Morceli of Algeria.

And so the race transpired, with Morceli holding a narrow lead over his Moroccan rival entering the final 400m. But just when the sprint finish looked on, El Guerrouj took a tumble. His hopes were extinguished as Morceli raced away to land the crown.

El Guerrouj, who went on to win four world 1500m titles and record the world record in a sparkling career, had to wait eight years for his first Olympic titles, completing the 1500m and 5000m double at Athens 2004.

Lasse’s rescue act

Finland boasts a proud distance running tradition that stems back to the pre-war Flying Finn days of Hannes Kolehmainen and Paavo Nurmi.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics that tradition was revived thanks chiefly to the sensational efforts of policeman Lasse Viren. The tall Scandinavian had gone into the Games on the back of a 8:14.0 two-mile world record.

However, his hopes of gold in the 10,000m appeared over after a tangle with Tunisia’s Mohammed Gammoudi at the halfway stage sent him crashing to the track. Yet, he sprang from the ground and within less than a lap had rejoined the main back. He then unleashed his winning move with 600m remaining, putting the hammer down to open a slender 3m gap on nearest pursuer Emiel Puttemans. The Belgian threatened around the final bend but the Finn kicked clear, flying to the win in a world record 27:38.35.

Just 11 days later he ran the 5000m world record 13:16.3 back in Helsinki.

Decker hits the deck

One of the most infamous athletics clashes in history took place in an incident-packed 3000m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. American Golden Girl Mary Decker went into the event as favourite. Teenager Zola Budd, of Great Britain, was seen as the chief threat to the home favourite and the reigning world 1500m and 3000m champion.

There had already been controversy before the race, after Budd, who was South African-born, had been fast-tracked into the British team just months earlier.

A fierce battle was anticipated, but few expected their clash to be quite so destructive. Both were running at the front of the field mid-race when their legs tangled, seeing Decker crash on to the infield. Budd, running barefoot, briefly glanced to her side to assess the damage but kept on going. She was nonetheless devastated by the incident, and wound up seventh as Romanian Maricica Puica profited to grab gold.

Victoria’s reign

It wasn’t an Olympic or world champs final, but Australian Victoria Mitchell overcame a dramatic fall to claim an unforgettable victory in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the 2014 Melbourne World Challenge meet.

Leading teenage Kiwi Rosa Flanagan at the final water barrier, the Olympian took a tumble, full on bellyflopping into the drink. Her hopes of victory seemingly dashed. However, Mitchell – famous for her multi-coloured hair – refused to concede defeat and battled back from the drenching to clinch a memorable win. Her nonplussed expression made it look as if it had been her plan all along.