9 Sportsmen Who Died in Action

Sport is usually a time where someone wins and celebrates and someone looses and commiserates.

Every so often, however, something tragic happens which sends the whole sporting world into mourning and causes both sides to feel they have lost.

Some of the greatest legends in sporting history have met ends too soon, while they still had so much potential left, which only serves to make their untimely deaths all the more tragic.

This list will not be a happy one. Nonetheless, these sporting hero’s deserve to be remembered. This is our tribute to

9 Sportsmen Who Died in Action

Ayrton Senna – Motor Racing

Arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time, a legend and a hero to millions – including myself. Ayrton Senna was a 3-time Formula One World Champion when he died on the 1st of May 1994 after crashing into a concrete barrier at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Italy.

At an age of 34, Senna still had the determination, skill and passion to win many more world titles had it not been for this tragic event but even without those, he will always be remembered for the amazing feats he did achieve.


Marc-Vivien Foe – Football

June the 26th 2003, the football world suddenly stopped when Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed in the centre circle while playing for his national team – Cameroon against Colombia. Sadly, medical attempts to resuscitate him proven in vain and he passed away.

Foe was a highly skilled midfielder who had won domestic honours with Lens and Lyon and also international honours with his native Cameroon team. At the time of his death he was playing his domestic football in the Barclay’s Premier League for Manchester City.


Phillip Hughes – Cricket

Aged at only 25, Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was on the back of the neck by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG.

Hughes had already been capped numerous times by Australia, making his test debut in 2009. He scored 115 in his second Test match which made him the Australia’s youngest Test centurion since Doug Walters in 1965. During that same match, he scored another hundred in the second innings making him the youngest ever Australian to score centuries in both innings of a Test.

Phillip Hughes was an incredible talent and will not only be missed by Australians but by cricket fans the world over.

Marco Simoncelli – Motor Cycling

It was during the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix that Simoncelli suffered his fateful accident in a collision with Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards.

He was a colourful character off the track and a tough competitor on it. He had raced in all 3 GP classes, starting in 125cc before moving up to the 250cc class in 2006. He was crowned 250cc World Champion in 2008 and in 2010 he progressed further by moving up to the premier class, MotoGP.

Such was his popularity, his funeral was attended by more than 20,000 people and it was aired on national television as well. In honour of this great racer, the Misano World Circuit in Italy has been renamed the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli thus ensuring the legend still lives on in our memories.

Owen Hart – Wrestler

Most people growing up in the 90s would have at some point watched some WWE (formerly known as WWF). I was one of those people who loved my weekly fix of this zany sports entertainment product and Owen Hart was one such performer I often remember watching.

Sadly, on the 23rd of May 1999, Hart suffered a horrific accident during a stunt in which he was being lowered into the ring from the rafters via a harness and grapple line. The quick release mechanism was triggered and Hart 78 feet (24 metres), landing chest-first on the top rope before being thrown into the ring.

Owen Hart will probably be best remembered for his steel cage main-event match of SummerSlam 1994 in which he faced-off against his older brother Bret Hart. This match remains one of only five in history to be awarded a full five stars by Wrestling observer Magazine.

Since his death his widowed wife, Martha, has set up the Owen Hart Foundation which provides opportunities for people who have limited resources and unlimited potential.

Fabio Casartelli – Cycling

Another young sporting talent to pass away in his mid-twenties was Fabio Casartelli. Aged only 24, Casartelli crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet during the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France.

Fabio’s headed struck a concrete block which was beside the roadway causing severe head injuries; several arguments have raged on since his death claiming that had he been wearing a bicycle helmet, he may well have survived the crash.

Three days after his accident, his team-mate, Lance Armstrong, dedicated his stage finish to Fabio by pointing to the sky as he crossed the finish line.


Zane Purcell – Rugby League

Perhaps not as well-known as some of the other names on this list but Zane Purcell is another sportsman to die in competition. While playing for Lower Clarence Magpies against Ballina Seagulls, Purcell accidentally clashed heads with an opposing player when attempting a tackle – just moment later, he collapsed on the field.

At the age of 29 and a father of two children, Zane is yet another one who was taken from the world too early.

Andrew Ashman – Sailing

Mr Ashman was a paramedic by profession and also an extremely accomplished amateur sailor. He was knocked unconscious, and later passed away, after being by sail while aboard the IchorCoal boat which was competing in the year-long Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Andrew Ashman is the only sailor to have died during this event’s 19 year history. Many family and friends have spoken since his death, saying that he was living his dream by competing in this event. Therefore, it sounds like some small piece of comfort can be taken knowing that he died doing something he thoroughly loved.

Chuck Hughes – American Football

A slightly older one to finish with. Charles ‘Chuck’ Hughes was born in 1943 and died in 1971, aged 28. Hughes was an American football wide receiver and he is still to this day the only man to die on the field during a game.

Hughes started his pro career with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played for three seasons, before being traded to the Detroit Lions. It was while playing for the Lions against the Chicago Bears that Hughes collapsed to the turf holding his chest. Both team’s doctors raced to try to save him but sadly their efforts were in vain and he was later pronounced dead from what later discovered to be coronary thrombosis.

As a mark of respect, the Detroit Lions, retired his number 85 jersey in his honour and annually make an award for the most improved player in his name.


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