Friday, December 2, 2011

1964 Olympic 5,000m

Here I am, in the Somerset County Library at age 10, reading about a race that happened a year before I was born. By now, I was a fairly decent runner, having won my third grade cross country race at my school's annual Field Day. I had run enough to know that sometimes, running hurts a little.

And I knew enough to know that Olympic races hurt a lot.

So why is this guy smiling?

One lap to go. Frenchman Michel Jazy, WR holder in the mile, takes the bell and blasts off. By the end of the first turn, he has a gap and keeps flying down the backstretch. Behind him, American Bob Schul gets out of traffic and takes off in pursuit. For 100m, there is little change in their positions.

Then they hit the turn, and Jazy hits the wall. Coming into the finishing straight, he's tying up. But Schul isn't. Our guy pulls even with 80 remaining, then doesn't hesitate. He's gone. And he's laughing as he crosses the finish line.

German Harald Norpoth comes up on Jazy and also walks him down. "By then, the disheartened Frenchman was so disorganized that Bill Dellinger of the US snatched the bronze from him with the last stride." Disorganized? Not a term you normally hear when someone describes a race. Thank you, Arthur Daley (NY Times writer).

By the way, Schul ran a 38.7 for the last 300m. That's on a rain-drenched cinder track almost 50 years ago. That kind of finish puts him on the podium's top step in many races today.

With Schul's 5000m and Billy Mills's 10,000m, this remains the only year in which the US has one both distance golds. Or any gold.

There must have been something in the water that year.

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