Running, Track and Field discussion

Greatest Finishes

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message 1: by Douglas, Group Moderator (last edited Feb 09, 2011 03:46PM) (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod
As the spring track season nears, memories of races past flow before our mind's eye.

I invite all members of our Group to share with all of us your opinion of the greatest finishes of all time.

message 2: by Douglas, Group Moderator (last edited Feb 09, 2011 05:57PM) (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod
The great finish that first leaps to mind for me is Dave Wottle's gold medal race in the 800 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Let's set the stage here. Wottle was not a world class runner. He had had a decent collegiate career at Bowling Green where he was a miler, not an 800 specialist. He somehow made the Olympic team as an alternate, and then the coaches entered him in the 800 meters.

Wottle was injured just a few weeks before the Olympics. Then he got married, and suspended his training for the wedding and honeymoon. By the time he reached Munich, Dave was the proverbial dark horse, and no one gave him a chance to advance beyond his preliminary race. In the finals, he faced the best 800 meter men on the planet, including Mike Boit of Kenya and Evgeni Arzhanov of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, these Olympics were going badly for the USA. Valerie Borzhov won the 100 because the US coach misread the schedule, Bob Seagren was barred from using his pole in the pole vault, the basketball team was "screwed" by the officials in the semis against the Soviets, etc., etc. Tragically, the '72 Olympics were marred by the unconscionable, unthinkable terrorist kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes. Few bright memories remain from those Olympics, other than swimmer Mark Spitz ... and Dave Wottle.

Jim McKay and Marty Liquori called the 800 meter finals on ABC television. I vividly remember watching this race live, just before going to school one morning.

Wottle, wearing his famous golf cap, moved from last place during the final two hundred meters to edge the Soviet runner at the tape. Watching the video on You Tube is just as exciting now as the live broadcast in 1972.

Check out the video of the race at Just follow the golf cap.

Enjoy, my friends.

Douglas in South Carolina

message 3: by Douglas, Group Moderator (last edited Feb 17, 2011 01:02PM) (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod
I show the Wottle 800 meters race to middle distance runners whom I coach on a youth track team. The young runners learn from that incredible race that track can be as exciting as any other sport, that race strategy is vitally important, that they should never give up in a race, and that having a great kick at the end is vital in any running event.

When watching Wottle in that 800 finals, we see his strategy at work: hold back from the main pack for three fourths of the race, and focus on your top competitor. Dave clearly had determined to key on Arzhanov. As soon as the Soviet made his move, Dave followed. Apparently, Wottle knew that he had the requisite kick to pass the field in the waning meters. His tactics and his gamble paid off with a gold medal and a huge upset. Amazing.

message 4: by Douglas, Group Moderator (last edited Feb 24, 2011 12:50PM) (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod
The 800 meters, which is now essentially a two-lap sprint, seemingly would provide many opportunities for close finishes. Indeed, scanning You Tube and the internet yields some very exiting endings to many 800 meter races.

Check out this race from the Prefontaine classic a few years ago. The television announcers calling the race were focused on Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Khadevis Robinson of the United States for the entire race, when suddenly American Nick Symmonds came from out of the back of the pack, and blew by everyone in the last twenty meters to win. Anyone who has ever competed on the oval will be amazed by Symmonds's kick.

Here is the link:

message 5: by Douglas, Group Moderator (last edited Nov 19, 2011 08:31PM) (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod
Billy Mills of the United States stunned the track world when he won the gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Mills, a Native American, beat the legendary Ron Clarke. On the last lap, Clarke could not escape the pesky Mills, and shoved the American as they came out of first turn of the final lap.

Mills's kick leaves the viewer stunned. Rarely are we treated to a wonderfully close finish in a twenty-five lap race.

Here are some You Tube links for footage from that iconic moment in Olympic history.

message 6: by Steven, Group Moderator (new)

Steven Harbin (stevenharbin) | 45 comments Mod
Thanks for these links Doug. Really stirring emotional stuff. I took the liberty of posting the first one to my Facebook profile for other folks to see.

message 7: by Douglas, Group Moderator (new)

Douglas (dougkotti) | 97 comments Mod

In your years of competing and coaching this sport, surely you witnessed --- or were the part of --- some great finishes. Are they any you can share with us?

message 8: by James (new)

James Best (jamesbest) | 5 comments I am new to the group but will toss in my two cents...

Fully agree that Mills and Wottle provided two of the greatest finishes, and any fan of track and field should re-watch them from time to time to see how much drama and excitement the sport can generate.

I would also look to the relay events for some of the best finishes in the sport's history. Here are three of my favorites:

Tokyo World Championship men's 4x400 final (1991) - - the U.S. has a team of Valmon, Watts, Everett, and Pettigrew. There is no way (on paper) that anyone should beat them. But the British anchor Kriss Akabusi, who was a 400m hurdler, stays close and then runs down Pettigrew in the home stretch.

Barcelona Olympics women's 4x100 final (1992) - - check out the scorching anchor leg that Gwen Torrance runs to catch the Soviet team from behind and grab the gold medal.

Tokyo Olympic men's 4x100 final (1964) - - Bob Hayes clocks the first sub 9 second anchor leg to bring the U.S. from three yards behind to the gold medal. Carl Lewis may have done it later on, but Bullet Bob was the first and he did it when it counted most.

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