One of the greatest race ever run – Dave Wottle 1972 Olympic 800m Final Race Video
Dave Wottle’s victory – frequently listed among the greatest races ever run. He came from the last place at the end of the first lap around the track to win gold.
The man who came from nowhere to win the U.S. Olympic trials has won the gold medal
Before the Olympics, Wottle won the Amateur Athletic Union 800-meter title, although he considered himself a better runner at the longer distance. Wottle then won the 800 meters at the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials with a world record time of 1 minute, 44.3 seconds. He also qualified for the 1,500 meters.
While neither win at the Olympic trials was a shocking victory, when Wottle lined up for the 800-meter finals in Munich in September 1972, he was lacking confidence because injuries of that prevented him from practising as much as he might have liked during the weeks leading up to the Olympics.
On the race day, he was lined up against Soviet Union distance runner Evgeny Arzhanov, the favorite, and a pair of runners from Kenya, a country always in the conversation for longer running events, as well as strong runners from Germany and Great Britain.
Some controversy to deal with
Wottle was criticised for the golf caps he wore during the race, as it wasn’t officially part of the US Olympics uniform. Further, he had to suffer the wrath of his own Olympic coach, Bill Bowerman, for having his new wife, Jan, with him at the Games.
What exactly happened in the race?
“There was a little bit of terror in the beginning because I found myself so far behind,” Wottle said in an interview. “I was eight to 10 meters behind and I felt, ‘I’m just out of it.”
But, as the second 400-meter lap began, Wottle stayed on his steady pace and the runners ahead of him started to slow down. “You get this feeling, ‘I’m in the race now. I’ve regained contact with the pack.” Wottle said.
His strategy was then to just stay in striking distance.
With less than 200 meters to go, Wottle was in sixth place. He had risen to fourth place with just 100 meters remaining.
“I figured I was just going to go for third place,” he remembered. “But, like any good runner is taught, I kept running through the finish line. I passed the two Kenyans. And almost at the finish line I
“But, like any good runner is taught, I kept running through the finish line. I passed the two Kenyans. And almost at the finish line I leaned and Arzhanov leaned and he fell.”
Runners generally know whether they won or not. However, because of the Soviet runner’s stumble, Wottle was not sure whether he won.
Lingering post race video shows Wottle walking to cool down on the track after the race, glancing up as if looking for a signal.
“I had to wait until my name flashed on the scoreboard,” Wottle recalled. “When ’Wottle, D.,” went up on the board I realized I had won the race.”
Memory of Lifetime
“I think about it probably every day one way or another. It’s burned into your memory. You won the gold medal, so you never quite forget it.”
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