Athletes throwing up during competition: Mikaela Shiffrin isn't alone

Mikaela Shiffrin apparently puked before finish fourth in the slalom race at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Getty)
Mikaela Shiffrin apparently puked before finish fourth in the slalom race at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Getty)

Was it a virus? Was it nerves? Either way, Mikaela Shiffrin vomited before her second event at the 2018 Winter Olympics on Friday, and slumped to a disappointing fourth-place slalom finish. The pre-race barf, understandably, became an unfortunate subject of discussion.

Despite it being out of the ordinary, though, Shiffrin isn’t alone when it comes to throwing up before or during competition. Over the years, a number of high-profile athletes have – some just once, others serially.

Here’s a look at some of the more memorable – or infamous – incidents. And if you think watching others puke will upset your own stomach … well, just don’t click “play” on the videos!


Messi, the greatest soccer player ever, has been known to keel over and heave during games. But it’s often more of a dry heave.

There have been various unscientific explanations from others for Messi’s habit. “Nerves” is one. Messi, for his part, has commented on it several times. “It’s no big deal,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca in 2014. “It’s happened to me before. Sometimes I accelerate very fast and the change in air intake that’s involved causes me to heave. I felt completely fine at the end of the match.”

He also told TyC Sports in Argentina: “I don’t know what it is. But I had a thousand exams. I start to feel nauseous to the point where I almost vomit, and then it goes away.”


Russell’s pregame habit has become an urban legend of sorts. It began as a few documented incidents, morphed into claims that Russell would often barf before momentous playoff games, and eventually became “Bill Russell would throw up before every game.”

Whatever the frequency, Russell was a pre-game puker, and the Celtics apparently embraced his routine. Multiple former teammates and coaches have said it turned into something of a good-luck charm or reason for superstitious optimism.


Beckham felt ill while warming up for England’s match against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup. He was later diagnosed with dehydration after playing 86 minutes in 86-degree German heat. That explains why he puked twice during the second half:

In between the two barfing incidents, Beckham bent in a famous free kick goal, the only goal of England’s win.


Did Donovan McNabb throw up during the Super Bowl? Pose the question to a Philadelphia Eagles fan, or even to former Eagles players who were on the field with McNabb on Feb. 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, and you won’t get anywhere close to consensus. There’s no video, and no hard evidence, and a denial from the former QB himself, but some people are convinced McNabb did toss his cookies in the huddle during a key fourth quarter drive. The Eagles lost by three, and the myth became fodder for McNabb critics.

But whether he did or didn’t throw up during the Super Bowl, he certainly did during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:


Before he was a top-five NFL draft pick and MVP winner, Matt Ryan was the Boston College QB who puked in the final seconds of a huge win:


Football seems like the most common puking sport. Several former players have said they had pregame habits similar to Russell’s. London Fletcher called himself “a vomit guy … SUCH a vomit guy.” Justin Tuck says he threw up at halftime of his first Super Bowl. And there have been all kinds of barfs caught on camera.

Some are the immediate on-field after-effects of the sport’s physical brutality. Others, like Jason Witten’s, are out-of-nowhere sideline heaves:


McNown turned out to be an NFL bust. But back when he was a big-time prospect at UCLA, he infamously vomited during a game against Oregon:


In a fifth-set tiebreak at the U.S. Open in 1996, Sampras was clearly unwell. In between points, he threw up on the baseline, and received a delay of game warning:

Had he heaved again, he might have been penalized, or eventually forced to forfeit. Instead, he went on to win the back-and-forth tiebreak, and therefore the match as well.


Almost two decades later, NBC felt it necessary to give us a slow-mo replay of Novak Djokovic puking during a French Open match:

There are many pukes that we’re missing here. But these seem to be the most high-profile incidents.