Alas, Dog Trimmers Have Always Been Denied Olympic Glory

I had a lot of fun researching for my article about the oddest events in Olympic history.  The hard part was actually having to narrow it down to the few events that made the final cut.  There was one event that I really wanted to include in the article, because it was so absurd and over the top.  I had to leave it out of the article, because there just wasn't enough room.  Oh, and it also wasn't real.

During my research for the article, I came across several newspapers and entertainment sites that had done their own version of the oddest events in the history of the Olympics.  A few of the pretty reputable newspapers and entertainment sites included an event from the 1900 Olympics, poodle clipping.  The competition was apparently who could trim the most poodles in two hours.  The gold medalist was a farmer's wife from France, Avril Lafoule. 

I instantly thought this was even too ridiculous for those crazy folks back in 1900.  I wanted it to be true.  There were several news sites with solid reputations that were reporting it as fact.  But the problem was that I'd already scanned a site that listed all the now defunct Olympic sports.  Poodle clipping wasn't on it.  There was a chance the site was embarrassed by such a "sport" being showcased at the most grand of sporting events.  Maybe they wanted to erase the one moment dogs had a chance to shine at the Olympics.  Maybe the compiler once had a dog pee on his leg, and so out of revenge, decided to wipe their records from Olympic history.  Maybe these news sites and newspapers were able to uncover the truth.

I did a bit a more research.  I wanted to verify this golden nugget.  I wanted it very badly to be the centrepiece of my article.

It took me about 30 seconds to discover the original source of the poodle clipping competition.  It was an article written by Chris Lyle for the London Telegraph, and it was written 128 before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.  In the piece, it mentioned that with 128 days to go that it was fitting to mention there were 128 competitors in the poodle clipping event in the Paris 1900 Olympics.  He then went on to give a quick recap of the event.

Now, you may wonder how can an article in 2008 be the original source of an event that happened in 1900.

Well, look at your 2008 calendar.  The Olympics started on August 8th.  If you go back 128 days, then your finger should land on April 1st.

Hmmmm. . . whatever happens on April 1st?

Yes, several newspapers and news sites have fallen for an April Fool’s joke planted back in 2008.  Now, some of the sources I read were back in 2008, but none of them ever offered up a retraction.

This again pushed me towards my venomous rant against people who don't bother to verify sources, but happily gobble up whatever they read.  It is even worse when it is a reporter who should know better.  But I'll spare you today, and leave my venom in the drawer for now.  I'm sure I'll have to use it when I spend too much time watching Olympic coverage over on NBC (always my very last stop on the Olympic coverage tour).

How did so many usually high quality sites get so easily suckered?

Well, one is that it is a pain in the ass to have to do actual research.  It is much easier to just grab another article and report their stuff as fact.  You just hope they did their research or that they aren't doing a joke article.  Probably best to not get your facts on April 1st though. 

To be fair, it would be pretty hard to get a lot of details from the 1900 Olympics.  They didn't have the internet then, you know.  But a reporter’s job is to research the facts.  We do have things like archives and libraries for a reason.  I am the last person to get on a person's case for being lazy, but I'm also a writer.  When I am writing fact articles, I tend to like making sure they are actually fact.

The other reason is that it is just so absurd and silly that you want it to be true.  If you're compiling an article about the oddest facts, this is the crown jewel.  A sport that is clipping poodles.  It is ridiculous.  It will surely make your entire readers chuckle.  You really want it to be true.

Plus 1900 was the year they had an event to see who can kill the most pigeons.  They did have some crazy events, and stuff that would never be allowed today.  The poodle trimming probably is only slightly more absurd than the pigeon shooting, but that is a pretty debatable point.  They do still have hunting shows, but they'd never get away with doing something like that on a global stage.  But then again, they also have dog shows, and I only have a very vague idea of what they do.

I realize how this prank got passed as fact.  And I really wish it wasn't fiction.  It is the most awesome absurd event ever.  But sadly, Avril Lafoule never won the only poodle clipping Olympic competition, and she also likely never existed.

Now, freestyle Llama racing from the 1908 Olympics, that was a classic.