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10 Sports Stars Who Died While Competing

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: Jordy McKen
These athletes died doing what they loved. For this list, we'll be looking at some of the tragedies over the years of athletes from a variety of sports who perished while taking part in a competition. Our countdown includes Owen Hart, Chuck Hughes, Ayrton Senna, and more!
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10 Sports Stars Who Died While Competing


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for 10 Sports Stars Who Died While Competing.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the tragedies over the years of athletes from a variety of sports who perished while taking part in a competition.

Do you have any fond memories of the athletes mentioned in the video? Let us know about them below.

Phillip Hughes

Australia’s Phillip Hughes was an opening batsman that broke records in the realm of cricket. In 2014, he played for the South Australia team against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield competition. Bowler Sean Abbott delivered a bouncer towards Hughes, who attempted a hook shot. However, he missed, and the ball struck him in the neck. This impact damaged the artery, leading to a brain hemorrhage. This was an incredibly rare incident and while medical staff tried to save Highes, he sadly lost his life. He was 25. An inquest later found no one at fault for this tragic accident.

Ray Chapman

In the history of professional baseball, only one person has died from a direct incident on the field, Ray Chapman. Playing for the then-named Cleveland Indians, Chapman was one of the best batters around. In August 1920, Cleveland took on the New York Yankees. When the pitcher for the Yankees, Carl Mays, threw the ball, Chapman didn’t see it. The ball viscously struck him on the skull. Chapman reportedly told Mays not to worry before collapsing on the pitch. He later passed away from brain damage at 29. The Indians won the 1920 World Series and dedicated the victory to Chapman.

Jose Flores

Born in Peru, Jose Flores made a name for himself as a jockey in the U.S. Throughout his long career, he won 4650 races. In March 2018, he raced at what’s now called Parx Casino and Racing. While leading with his horse, Love Rules, the mount fell with no warning, causing Flores to clatter into the ground headfirst. With massive cranial damage, Flores passed away days later at 57. Another instance when a jockey lost their life during a race was 22-year-old Irishman, Frank Hayes. He suffered a heart attack and remained in the saddle when the horse crossed first in the race.

Owen Hart

After making a name for himself in professional wrestling and winning titles along the way, Owen Hart was in the prime of his career. For the pay-per-view “Over The Edge” in 1999, Hart, who was wrestling under the moniker the Blue Blazer, was set to take on The Godfather for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Hart descended from the rafters for his entrance, but that’s when tragedy struck. One of the cables released, causing the Canadian wrestler to fall around 70 feet and land on the top rope chest first. Hart passed away at the age of 34. His passing was announced during the pay-per-view broadcast, and the show controversially went on.

Fran Crippen

After getting his start as a professional swimmer in the pool, Fran Crippen switched to open water competition and began raking in medals. In 2010, he took part in the FINA Marathon Swim World Series in Fujairah, UAE. But at the end of the race, Crippen was nowhere to be found. After a frantic search, divers located his body under the water. It was discovered that after 8 kilometers, Crippen had told his coach he wasn’t feeling well, but he continued with the race. On top of this, the water temperature had reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in several swimmers being treated for heat exhaustion. It's believed all these factors resulted in Crippen’s death at the age of 26.

Kim Duk-koo

Kim Duk-koo was one of the most dominant boxers in Asia in the late 70s and early 80s. He challenged Ray Mancini for his WBA Lightweight title in the U.S. back in 1982. The longer the match went on, the more Mancini took control. By the 14th round, Kim was struck by numerous heavy punches, causing him to fall. Although he was able to get back up, the referee stopped the fight. Minutes later, Kim collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Emergency brain surgery took place to address Kim’s subdural hematoma. Unfortunately, he lost his life days later at the age of 27 years.

Chuck Hughes

After breaking college football records when playing wide receiver, Chuck Hughes was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Detroit Lions. In October 1971, the team faced the Chicago Bears. Late in the fourth play, Hughes ran back to the huddle. However, he clutched his chest and collapsed. He suffered a massive attack due to undiagnosed arteriosclerosis. While medical staff attempted to save him, Hughes passed away at 28. Earlier in the season, Hughes had visited the hospital with chest pains, and they failed to spot his heart defect. The hospital settled with Hughes’s widow after she sued them for malpractice.

Marc-Vivien Foé

In 2003, Marc-Vivien Foé was living the dream by representing his country, Cameroon, during the FIFA Confederations Cup. In the semi-final, the team took on Columbia. However, in the 72nd minute, Foé collapsed in the center circle. Medical staff attempted to revive him, but by the time they reached the hospital, Foé had passed at the age of 28. An investigation found he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle. (Xref) Another soccer player, 22-year-old Antonio Puerta, was a future star for Spain and Sevilla. In August 2007, he collapsed during a match against Getafe after suffering a heart attack. Puerta died a few days later in hospital.

Ayrton Senna

Today, Ayrton Senna is considered one of the best Formula One drivers to grace the track. After all, the Brazilian racer won multiple World Drivers' Championships and was a fan favorite. In 1994, the 34-year-old Senna competed in the San Marino Grand Prix, an event already filled with tragedy after Roland Ratzenberger’s fatal crash during the qualifying session. At lap 7, Senna’s car was unable to turn at the Tamburello corner, causing the vehicle to crash into the concrete at around 145 miles per hour. This would later be discovered to be a failure with the car’s steering column. While Senna was immediately treated, his injuries were too severe. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Dale Earnhardt

For four decades, Dale Earnhardt raced and often dominated the NASCAR scene and he’s often one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen. Taking part in 2001’s Daytona 500, Earnhardt’s vehicle at one point clipped Sterling Marlin’s car in the final lap.He lost control and struck Ken Schrader’s car. The two vehicles suddenly collided with the outside wall before sliding to the grass on the inside lane. The legendary driver suffered a basilar skull fracture and lost his life at the age of 49.
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