Then in the final, Wottle not only had to face Arzhanov, but the two outstanding Kenyans in Mike Boit and Robert Ouko, plus other European stars like Franz-Josef Kemper of West Germany and Andy Carter of Britain.
So when Dave slid right to the back of the pack early in the final, collective USA hearts probably sank appreciably. Ouko towed the field through a 24.7 opening 200, with Wottle trailing at 26.4. The pace lagged after that as both Kenyans split 52.3, with Arzhanov sixth at 52.9 and Wottle last at 53.5. Arzhanov assumed command down the second backstretch to lead at the 600 in 1:19.2.
Wottle, meanwhile, was clocking comparatively-consistent 200s of 27.1 and 26.2, yet trailed the Soviet by a half-second entering the homestretch. But Dave was on the outside and closing like a runaway freight train. He gradually picked off everyone ahead of him before finally catching Arzhanov with maybe three steps left in the race. The Soviet threw himself across the finish stripe, bouncing a couple of times on the surface.
But it was not enough as Wottle prevailed by a slim 0.03 in 1:45.86. Everyone in the stadium was roaring at the sheer competitiveness of the contest, but the Americans were especially—and understandably—delirious over Wottle’s win.
|Boit, Wottle, Arzhonov|
All three seem overcome by the moment but for vastly different reasons.
When told later in the media interview room of his mistake, Wottle put his hands over his face in shock, embarrassment and dismay. Yet I will bet my ranch (if I had one) that not a single American in Munich, or anywhere else, held it against Wottle. He had provided a thrilling, unforgettable example of a major part of the Olympic Creed: “to compete well.” For me, it was unforgettable.
The 800 at Munich click here to see the entire race ed.
Any Olympic final is a race combining strength, speed and tactical brilliance. But for me, no other Games 1500 final could outshine Seb Coe’s successful title defense at
Los Angeles in ’84.
Britain’s Coe, 27 at the time, had won the 1980 gold medal in Moscow to outduel rival Steve Ovett, who had scored an upset 800 victory. Most fans and pundits figured Coe to take the ’80 800 with Ovett claiming the 1500. But in the best Olympic tradition of producing upsets, Ovett had outrun Coe in the two-lapper. Then Coe turned the tables in the 1500.
Great Britain took a powerful 1-2-3 punch to LA, with Coe being the defender, Ovett having set the WR at 3:30.77 the previous September in Rieti and young Steve Cram having won the inaugural World Championships the prior summer in Helsinki.
But Coe had missed the global meet due to illness and had suffered a loss or two in the build-up to LA. So the English press—always ruthlessly critical of the UK’s sporting stars— seemed especially so toward the reigning Olympic champion, judging him as vulnerable as the Games neared.
And then Coe was outrun in the Olympic 800 by the young and powerful Brazilian Joaquim Cruz, who clocked 1:43.00 for an Olympic Record that lasted until the next U.S. Games 12 years later in Atlanta. Still, Coe had timed 1:43.64, certainly not chump change but more fuel for the fire stoked by the British media.
Plus Coe had shrugged his shoulders as he crossed the finish, as if to say (which he later verbalized), “I can’t complain, Cruz is a great champion.” But in a real shocker, defender Ovett placed last in 1:52.28.
In the LA 1500 final, Spain’s José Manuel Abascal led the Brits through 1000-meters, ahead of Coe (2:39.2) by two-meters, with Cram (2:39.6) and Ovett (2:39.8) following. Then in a stunner, Ovett stepped off the track just after the bell. He had battled bronchitis all spring and said his breathing at the Games wasn’t helped by LA’s notoriously smoggy air.
Meanwhile, Coe chewed up the final curve in a stunning 13-flat to enter the homestraight with a two-meter advantage. He clocked 13.1 for the final 100 and won by six-meters in 3:32.53, an Olympic Record that would last for 16 years. He outran Cram (3:33.40) by nearly a full second, with Abascal 3rd (3:34.30).
Then after he crossed the finish, the usually mild-mannered Coe let out his frustration as he ran back up the finish stretch and stopped in front of the British press section in the LA Coliseum. He pointed both his index fingers at the Brit scribes as if to say to them, “There, write about that, mates!” Coe, now the president of track’s governing body, the IAAF, had provided the most emphatic reply possible to his critics—by becoming the first, and so far only, man to ever win two Olympic 1500 titles.
The Full Race 1984
(Another memorable finish stretch for me: Leo Manzano’s storming 13.1 final 100—fastest of the London ’12 final—to close his 52.8 last lap, equal-quickest of the race, and claim an unlooked-for silver medal. For sure, a raspy-throat producer from yelling so loud, even if the unwritten ethos of press section is that scribes aren’t supposed to cheer on athletes. Sometimes it’s hard not to be human—and a fan.)
That London 1500 men's final
|Coghlan in the Wannamaker Mile at Millrose in 1981|
Maybe I'm a little home boy but Wottle's win was THE most exciting of the races described. As we try to tell our runners year after year, It's where you are at the END of the race that counts. Thanks, Jon.. Steve Price
Steve coached for many years at Bowling Green and in retirement at Findlay Univ. ed.