On this day: May 8

May 8 features boxing legend Muhammed Ali, the unfortunate passing of Gilles Villeneuve and Soviet Russia who withdrew from the LA Olympic Games.

1967 – Ali arrested

Muhammed Ali beat Zora Folley to retain his three heavyweight titles and improve his record to 29-0.

However, Ali was arrested after he refused to be conscripted into the US Military. He did so on the basis of his Islamic beliefs and his opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam war.

Ali was stripped of his titles and spent nearly four years under suspension until his case eventually worked his way up to the Supreme Court, where his conviction was overturned.

1982 – Villeneuve dies in crash

Gilles Villeneuve won six Grand Prix races in his short career at the sport’s highest level, earning him much acclaim.

But the Canadian’s career was cut short after a fatal accident during a qualifying session of the Belgian Grand Prix.

On his flying lap, the Ferrari driver came over a rise and crashed into the back of the slow moving Jochen Mass. Villeneuve’s car launched into the air at an estimated 210kph and travelled around 100m before somersaulting and coming to a stop.

Villeneuve was thrown from his car and was found without his helmet on. The 32-year-old was not breathing, but his pulse was steady. He was rushed to hospital but died from a neck fracture later that evening.

Villeneuve’s son, Jacques, would go on to become the first Canadian to win the Formula One World Championship in 1997.

1984 – Soviet nations boycott Olympics

In response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics Games in Moscow, a total of 14 nations declined to participate in the LA Games.

The countries included Soviet Russia, Cuba, and East Germany. Romania was the only Eastern Bloc nation that attended.

The USSR cited concerns about “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States.”

The boycotting nations organised the Friendship Games in July and August, which was open to all athletes.

Sporting Birthdays:

1873: Henry Leveson-Gower, English cricketer
1901: Turkey Stearnes, American baseball player
1902: Milfiord ‘Curly’ Page, New Zealand cricketer
1930: Doug Atkins, NFL Hall of Famer