Superhuman Performance: A Sporting Chance?

Following Frank Key’s post earlier this week, you may be interested to hear about Tom Hicks, the Olympic Marathon champion of the 1904 St Louis Olympic Games. Having been helped by his trainers into the stadium (see above), Hicks collapsed on the finishing line and the medal ceremony was delayed whilst he was revived. He had “received several doses of strychnine and brandy throughout the race to increase his endurance.”

See Tom’s photograph, along with many more examples of performance and body enhancement at the forthcoming Wellcome Collection exhibition – Superhuman, which opens on 19th July and runs until 16th October.

Devices to help gain competitive advantage on show will range from training shoes, isotonic drinks and blade legs to curious contraptions such as the Whizzinator – a false penis designed to dodge doping tests by delivering clean urine.

Please don’t try this at home…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

3 thoughts on “Superhuman Performance: A Sporting Chance?

    July 14, 2012 at 13:20

    Strychnine, I guess, stimulates muscle contractions–fatally, at a sufficient dose. Brandy would be about the last thing that a modern runner would want mid-marathon.

    TA whizzinator makes a brief appearance–a couple of them, actually–in the movie Withnail and I.

  2. Worm
    July 14, 2012 at 18:54

    There’s lots of interesting performance enhancing tales about the tour de France, particularly Tom Simpson who died on the Mont Ventoux from a fatal combination of amphetamines, brandy and cycling straight up a mountain

    • Gaw
      July 16, 2012 at 21:30

      I gather it’s the hypothermia coming down that is more likely to finish them off.

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