Manti Te'o Fake Girlfriend And Five Other Shocking Sports Hoaxes

on January 18 2013 12:16 PM
teo
Manti Te'o REUTERS

The story of Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend Lenny Kekua is undoubtedly one of the most shocking incidents in sports history. The Notre Dame linebacker purportedly dated a woman he met online for three years until she died of Leukemia last year.

On Wednesday, Deadspin revealed that Kekua never actually existed. Te'o has since claimed he was duped or “Catfished” by an online imposter.

The story ranks among some of the most perplexing and outrageous sports hoaxes.  Here are some others:

5) Simonya Popova

1044027631 Simonya Popova  Sports Illustrated

In 2002, Sports Illustrated ran a profile on Simonya Popova, an Uzbekistan-born tennis player who was set to take the sport by storm, accompanied by a photo of the bodacious blonde bombshell.

The intriguing piece detailed the 17-year-old’s tremendous skill set and fierce presence on the court.

Yet, by the end of the article, it was revealed that Popova does not actually exist and that the photo of her was created digitally.

The magazine’s hoax angered the Women’s Tennis Association, which felt "steamed by the story's underlying premise, namely that women's tennis needs a sex symbol like Popova -- who is lasciviously described as wearing 'midriff-baring outfits so small they appear to come from Gap Kids,'" Fox News reported.

"It says we can't wait to get a player like that because we're losing our mojo," then-WTA spokesman Chris De Maria told the Post.

He added that Sports Illustrated could have run a story on one of professional women's tennis' actual players.

"We have tons of Mojo," he said.

The piece was meant to be a commentary on how the women's professional tennis industry seeks to increase its revenues and media attention by sexually objectifying its more attractive players to such a degree that it's willing to invent such players if none exists at the time, as if the sport has nothing else to offer viewers and fans other than sexy athletes to ogle.

WTA officials complained at the time that many people fell for the hoax, including a prominent newspaper's sports editor.

4) Danny Almonte

19 Danny Almonte  Reuters

Bronx Little League pitcher Danny Almonte became a national media sensation in 2001 after a stunning performance at the Little League World Series. The Dominican born Almonte threw the first perfect Little League game since 1957. Even more remarkable was that fact that he was just 12 years old.

Or was he?

Weeks later, Sport Illustrated uncovered that the gifted player was actually 14 -- making him two years too old to play Little League.

As a result, Almonte and his team were stripped of their wins.

3) Spanish Paralympian Basketball Team

The Spanish Paralympian Basketball Team Hoax has been dubbed among the "most outrageous sporting moments" of all time. The event, which kicked off in Sydney, Australia, in 2000, included an Intellectually Disabled division -- which included competitors with an IQ of 70 or less. The Spanish basketball team in the division went on to win the gold medal.

However, it was later revealed by an undercover journalist that 10 of the 12 players on the team were not disabled.

According to the BBC news, many of the teammates did not undergo the proper physical and mental screening process prior to the competition.

Weeks after the team’s faux victory, they were ordered to return their medals.

2) Dora Ratjen

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-C10378,_Hermann_Ratjen_alias_'Dora_Ratjen' Dora Ratjen  Wiki Commons

During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Dora Ratjen came in 4th place in the female high jump competition. Her impressive achievements continued in 1938, when she won the high jump gold medal during the European Athletics Championships. Yet that same year, Ratjen was apprehended by police who believed they spotted a man in women’s clothing.

They were right.

Details surrounding the bizarre case have emerged over the years in the form of various investigations and journalistic inquires.

In 1966, TIME reported that Ratjen was in fact raised as a girl but had the physical attributes of a man. According to the outlet, he was forced to compete as a woman by the Nazi regime. The German publication Der Spiegel refuted the story, claiming the facts reported where “completely out of the question.”

The story served as the basis for the 2009 German film “Berlin 36.”

1) Rosie Ruiz

In 1980, Rosie Ruiz won the female category of 84th Boston Marathon. According to Sports Illustrated, Ruiz completed the marathon faster than any female in the Boston Marathon’s history and had the third-fastest female time of any marathon.

There was just one problem -- the Cuban American Ruiz joined the race late, close to the finish line, and barely ran the race at all.

Her jig was up almost immediately when various other runners came forward, saying that they hadn’t seen Ruiz prior to her reaching the finish line. Ruiz also lacked the physique of a world-class runner and did not appear to be out of breath or sweating after obtaining the victory.

A week later, the Boston Athletic Association striped Ruiz of her win.