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Not everyone can be an Olympic gold medalist, win an Oscar or a Nobel Prize, or sell millions of records. But there is a way for people who lack such traditional talents to achieve something that will be recorded along with their name for posterity—breaking a world record. With a bit of creativity and hard work, anyone can do it.

However, having the freedom to choose which discipline or activity to attempt a world record in does not mean there are no rules at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite when it comes to getting a record verified by Guinness World Records. Many have discovered only after their attempt that they missed something in the small print, and in many cases, what seemed to be an obviously broken world record has been rejected on a technicality. Here are ten of the most heartbreaking and hilarious examples.

Related: 10 World Records That Have Never Been Broken

10 Eating the Evidence

Northern Tehran, 2008. It is early in the morning, and 1,000 cooks are gathered in front of crowds and television cameras. They are about to participate in the preparation of the most unusual meal of their career—a 4,921-foot (1,500-meter) long ostrich meat sandwich. It will take hours to pack the whopping 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of meat inside, but it will be worth it in the end. They will have gotten some great publicity for ostrich meat. Still, more importantly, they will have beaten Italy’s 4,520-foot (1,378-meter) sandwich to take the world record.

At least, that is what they hoped before the salivating crowd of onlookers swarmed the enormous sandwich and started to eat it before the Guinness representatives could measure it. Unable to verify its size, they had no choice but to reject the record. On the bright side, the stunt’s secondary goal of promoting ostrich meat consumption in Iran did succeed.[1]

9 Too Many Materials

10 Ridiculous Times World Records Were Rejected - Listverse 1

Strangely, the largest type of food does not always have to be made from the proper ingredients in order to break the world record. A case in point is an enormous lollipop sculpture that was put up in the town of Ravensthorpe, Australia, in 2019. At almost 26.3 feet (8 meters) tall and 13 feet (4 meters) wide, it was believed to be larger than any other looming lollipop on the planet when it was officially unveiled. However, its application for the Guinness World Record was rejected.

The reason was not because it was inedible and not even because of its size. The problem was that it was made from aluminum and steel. To qualify for the record, Guinness required the sculpture to be made from only one material. The rejected record did not bring the town’s residents down, though. They hoped that the lollipop would attract tourists to the struggling area and that it would encourage more creativity and happiness in the community.[2]

8 Matchstick Mix-Up

It was also the misfortune of Frenchman Richard Plaud to choose the wrong material for his attempt to build the world’s tallest Eiffel Tower model out of matchsticks. Completed in 2023 on the 100th anniversary of Gustav Eiffel’s death, the model had taken him eight years to build. Over 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of glue held together the 706,900 matches it took to reach 23 feet (7 meters) in height. However, they were not the right matches. Plaud purchased them directly from a manufacturer who sold them to him without the red sulfur ends.

According to Guinness officials, only “commercially available” matches are allowed. Since matches are not usually sold like this, the record was rejected, even though the red bits would have been shaved off before they were used in the model. This seemed like a harsh way to dismiss someone’s dream, and luckily for Plaud, somebody at Guinness must have agreed. The day after the decision, the officials reversed their position and congratulated him for setting a new world record.[3]

7 No Scrubs

World records can offer a way to sports stardom for those without world-class athletic abilities. This is because they can be super-specific. For example, running the fastest marathon ever is impossible for most people, but running the fastest marathon while dressed as a nurse is realistic. In fact, nurse and runner Jessica Anderson almost broke the latter while training for the London Marathon in 2019, so she decided that on that day, she would make an official attempt.

Finishing in a time of 3:08:22, she beat the existing record by 32 seconds. But her application for the world record was rejected. Why? Because, according to Guinness, she was not dressed as a nurse. She had chosen to wear actual scrubs, but the requirements asked for a fancy dress nurse’s outfit with a traditional cap and apron. After complaining about the outdated requirements and drawing support from other nurses online, Guinness agreed to review their criteria and ultimately granted her the record.[4]

6 The “Turbaned Tornado” Was Too Old to Prove He Was the Oldest

Earning an awesome nickname like the “Turbaned Tornado” might have taken the sting out of this next rejected attempt to run a record-breaking marathon. Sadly for the runner, whose real name is Fauja Singh, there was no reversal of this decision. It was impossible for him to provide the evidence Guinness required. The record in question is the oldest man to complete a full marathon, which Singh was believed to have set in Toronto in 2011 at the age of 100.

It took him more than eight hours, 14 minutes of which was spent reaching the start line, and no one disputes his inspirational feat of going the whole distance. The problem was verifying his age. The officials demanded to see a birth certificate, but Singh could not provide one because official birth records were not kept in India in 1911, the year he was born according to his passport. Also, being a British citizen, he received the official letter from Queen Elizabeth II that was sent out to her centenarian subjects. However, even this would not convince officials to grant him the record.[5]

5 Left Hanging

10 Ridiculous Times World Records Were Rejected - Listverse 2

Some Guinness World Records are subject to age restrictions. And while it is one thing to stop someone from attempting a record because they fall outside of the age bracket, what happens if they already did it and succeeded? Or not only succeeded but smashed the existing record? In December 2023, the world found out, and sadly, it seems the officials would rather stick to their rules than report the real-world record. This was the result for Helena, an amazingly strong eight-year-old girl from Leeds, UK, who filmed herself performing an excruciating 35-minute dead hang.

The previous record for a female of any age was less than half that, at exactly 12 minutes. But Guinness disqualified Helena’s record because of her age. They said the physically demanding nature of the challenge meant they could not allow it to be attempted by children under the age of 16. Helena’s family and even their local Member of Parliament urged Guinness to reconsider the decision. But they would not, leading to a bizarre situation where at least one “official” world record is known to be wrong.[6]

4 Too Young to Qualify

Another British youngster who missed out on a world record—actually, two world records—is Lauren Booth. Despite having cerebral palsy, Lauren is an ace velodrome cyclist who, by 2015, when she was only 13 years old, held national records and could pedal 200 meters around a track in less than 15 seconds. A couple of years earlier, she had taken only slightly longer than that—15.129 seconds—to complete 200m at the Wales National Velodrome. It was a speed that would have been a record at the time but was denied because she was too young.

In 2015, Lauren then managed an astonishing time of 14.402 seconds. It became her new personal best and was intended to be a world record attempt. However, the doping testers who had been invited failed to show up. This meant the record would not have counted. But as it happened, her amazing time would not have been fast enough by then, either. The record was broken mere hours earlier on the other side of the globe in New Zealand.[7]

3 Too Windy

In July 2022, Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan was putting in a stellar performance in the women’s 100m hurdles event at the World Athletics Championships. She had broken the world record in her semi-final, finishing in 12.12 seconds. This made her 0.08 seconds faster than the previous holder of the title, and she still had the final race to go. In peak form, she won the gold with an even faster time of 12.06 seconds. However, this was not recorded as a new world record.

Being the holder of the existing record, which she set only two hours earlier, and taking home the gold medal, Amusan was probably not devastated by the record’s denial. She might have wondered why, and the answer to that is the wind reading was too high. This meant she had too much tailwind assistance to make a fair comparison with other records, so it was deemed ineligible.[8]

2 When a City Is Not One Area

Another way to attempt a world record that is open to everyone is to organize a gathering of something. Get more of the same thing together in one area than there has ever been before, and there might be a record in it. Of course, there are limits to what counts as one area, as the city of Hoschton, Georgia, found out in 2008 when they were refused the Guinness World Record for the most scarecrows.

In 2008, they decided to make their yearly scarecrow contest even bigger by trying to beat the record 3,311 scarecrows that were gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, five years earlier. They succeeded with a total of 5,441 scarecrows. But even though they had more than 2,000 additional scarecrows—including a stuffed Elvis and Jesus—Guinness declined the record.

Unlike in Cincinnati, where they were displayed at a show, the Hoschton scarecrows were spread around the city’s streets. According to the officials, this would not count. However, the organizers were still pleased with the community spirit and the attention the city received because of the event.[9]

1 A Titanic Collection

There are plenty of “world’s largest collection” records. Like the scarecrow example above, anyone can do them because all they need is a bit of imagination, time, and the means to get lots of similar or related things together in one place. But not many of the exact same thing because, according to Guinness, duplicates do not count in a collection. It is easy to understand why this rule might exist; officials surely do not want to spend their time trying to verify the world’s largest “collection” of sand or rice, for example.

As such, factories and warehouses would have a big advantage over individuals too. However, this rule meant that in 2023, a Florida man with over 2,000 copies of Titanic on VHS missed out too. It is okay, however. His unique hobby might not have earned him the record for the largest collection, but what he really wants is to amass one million copies and use them to build a—hopefully record-breaking—replica of the Titanic.[10]

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