The first modern Olympics in 1896 was quite different from what we see today. It was new, they didn’t know what rules would be necessary, and they certainly hadn’t worked all the kinks out. It was basically a circus. For one thing, there were no organizing committees in the various nations. If you showed up and wanted to compete, that was fine (as long as you were male). And that’s how we ended up with several winners with no experience, like Robert Garrett, an American who went to the 1896 Olympics in the discus throw, even though he’d never even seen the sport.
Prior to his arrival in Athens, Garrett had literally no idea what a discus was. For his training, he asked a local blacksmith to make him one based on ancient Greek manuscripts. In what may well have been an instance of epic 19th-century trolling, the blacksmith built him an iron lump that was 30 centimeters (12 in) across and weighed 14 kilograms (30 lb). It was impossible to throw, but Garrett trained with it anyway. He went to Athens prepared to throw a chunk of iron, and it was only when he saw the Greek team throwing real discuses that he realized just how badly he’d screwed up.
Still, Garrett entered anyway, which went about as well as you’d expect. His first two throws didn’t spin so much as flip end-over-end and nearly hit audience members in the face. Then, something unexpected happened: Garrett made his third and final throw—and won the competition. Years later, one of the other American athletes would recall about this unexpected win: “I think no one was more surprised than Robert Garrett himself.”
According to Wikipedia, a discus is 8.5 inches across and weighs two kilograms in the men's competition. Garrett’s story is only one of ten tales from the 1896 Olympics you can read about at Listverse. -via the Presurfer