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1956 Olympic Games Melbourne, Australia - Men's 1500 m



Host City: Melbourne, Australia Format: Top four in each heat advanced to the final.
Date Started: November 29, 1956
Date Finished: December 1, 1956
(Competitors: 37; Countries: 23; Finalists: 12)
Venue(s): Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Victoria
Overview by IAAF 1956_melbournestadium.jpg 
The first heat was won by GDR star Richtzenhain in 3:46.75, and saw two Olympic Champions (Barthel and 1968 marathon winner Wolde) and the world record holder (István Rózsavölgyi), fail to qualify. The other heats could not rival this in terms of failure, though Sweden’s excellent Dan Waern missed the final by 0.05 in the last heat. New Zealander Murray Halberg set the pace in the final, passing 200m in 28.3 and 400m in 58.4, with Delany and Landy lagging at the back of the field. Lincoln took over at 700m, passing 800m in 2:00.1. The field began to bunch, with 7m covering the field at the bell (2:46.5). Hewson attacked, unconvincingly, at 1200m. Boyd and Richtzenhain easily went with him. With 250m to go Delany began a startling kick, gaining five yards on the field before the curve, to move into fourth place. He flew into second on the final bend and burst past Hewson at the beginning of the straight. He went on to win by 6m, with Richtzenhain just holding off the fast-finishing Landy for the silver medal. The top eight plus Ken Wood (GBR) – 3:44.75 – all beat the existing Olympic record.
Summary by
In 1954, Britain’s Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier for the mile, and won the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. But he was a medical student and elected not to continue competing thru the 1956 Olympics. By the time of the Melbourne Olympics, four other runners had broken four minutes for the mile – Hungary’s László Tábori, two Britons, Chris Chataway and Brian Hewson, and Australian John Landy. Landy hoped to win the 1,500 in front of his countrymen, and he had the best record of any of the contenders. Unlike 1952, there were only two rounds, which qualified 12 for the final, among them Landy, Tábori, Hewson, and Ireland’s Ron Delany. The final was led out by Landy’s teammate, Merv Lincoln. The field was closely bunched with Delany running at the rear. Hewson took the lead on the third lap and led thru 1,200 metres in 3:01.3. Delany was still near the rear but on the backstretch he moved up and passed Hewson at the head of the final straight, pulling away to win the gold medal in a major upset. Germany’s Klaus Richtzenhain was second, while John Landy, who had run an indifferent race, finished strongly for the bronze medal.


The Melbourne stadium was packed with over 104,000 for this race.  All Australian eyes were on the Mile WR holder, hometown favorite John Landy. Expectations of him were high, even though he had been struggling for months with an injury. He was hoping that his team mate Merv Lincoln would make the pace fast if he could. He also had been promised the support of the New Zealander Halberg.

Delany outsprints the field for a clear win. Richtzenhain and 
Landy (156) take the other medals.

Running in only his fourth 1,500, 23-year-old Murray Halberg led from the gun. He clocked 58.6 for the first lap. Merv Lincoln, Landy’s team-mate, who had needed a painkilling injection before the race, took the lead before 600 and passed 800 in 2:00.  The third lap was where Landy usually made his move, but this time he was well back.  Lincoln still led at the bell (2:46.8). At 1200, Hewson of Great Britain, who had been running beside Lincoln round the bend, made his move. “The rest of the field came after me like a pack of hounds in full cry,” Hewson wrote later. “The advantage I had expected to gain through my surprise move never materialized.” (Flying Feet, p.85) Nevertheless, he led till almost home straight from team-mate Boyd and Ritzenheim. Landy was moving up, dogged by Delany, but he wasn’t willing to run too wide on the bends.  In the final straight, a lucky Delany found a gap to come through on the inside. He burst into the lead on the final straight as if from nowhere to win gold.  His last lap was 53.4. Landy, clear at last, finished with a 54 lap that brought him from last to third behind Ritzenheim. “I thought I had no chance at all before the race,” Landy said after. “Only in the last straight did I begin to hope…. I lost confidence because I couldn’t train regularly [before the Games] and how I got up to win the bronze medal was a bit of a miracle.” (Keith Donald and Don Selth, Olympic Saga, p.107)

Roger Bannister, reporting on the games for Sports Illustrated, had an interesting view on this race. “To say that Delany was lucky to win does not detract from the brilliance of the young Irishman’s running. He succeeded in a crowded field in getting to the right position at the right time with enough energy left to make the most of it.” (SI, 7 Jan. 57) Bannister also talked perceptively of the pressure on the hometown favorite John Landy. “I believe Landy could have won this race. But he ran as though he knew he could not win; he ran for a place and not for a gold medal. Had he regained his confidence before the race and by chance or good planning held Delany’s position on the last bend, I think the story might have ended differently. (SI, 7 Jan. 57)

1. Delany IRE 3:41.2; 2. Richtzenhain GER 3:42.0; 3. Landy AUS 3:42.0; 4. Tabori HUN 3:42.4; 5. Hewson GBR 3:42.6; 6. Jungwirth CZE 3:42.6.

1500 m Men Final 1 December
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.41.49 Ronnie Delany Ireland IRL 21 OR 3.41.2 h
2 3.42.02 Klaus Richtzenhain Germany GER 22 3.42.0 h
3 3.42.03 John Landy Australia AUS 26 3.42.0 h
4 3.42.55 László Tábori Hungary HUN 25 3.42.4 h
5 3.42.69 Brian Hewson Great Britain GBR 23 3.42.6 h
6 3.42.80 Stanislav Jungwirth Czechoslovakia TCH 26 3.42.6 h
7 3.42.87 Neville Scott New Zealand NZL 21 3.42.8 h
8 3.42.94 Ian Boyd Great Britain GBR 22 3.43.0 h
9 3.44.76 Ken Wood Great Britain GBR 26 3.44.3 h
10 3.45.58 Gunnar Nielsen Denmark DEN 28 3.45.0 h
11 3.46.09 Murray Halberg New Zealand NZL 23 3.45.2 h
12 3.51.9 Merv Lincoln Australia AUS 23
1500 m Men Round One Heat One 29 November
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.46.76 Q Klaus Richtzenhain Germany GER 22 3.46.6 h
2 3.46.79 Q Stanislav Jungwirth Czechoslovakia TCH 26 3.46.6 h
3 3.47.13 Q Ian Boyd Great Britain GBR 22 3.47.0 h
4 3.47.39 Q Murray Halberg New Zealand NZL 23 3.47.2 h
5 3.49.54 István Rózsavölgyi Hungary HUN 27 3.49.4 h
6 3.49.94 André Ballieux Belgium BEL 23 3.49.8 h
7 3.49.95 Michel Jazy France FRA 20 3.50.0 h
8 3.50.02 Ted Wheeler United States USA 25 3.50.1 h
9 3.50.86 Jonas Pipynė Soviet Union URS 20 3.50.6 h
10 3.50.64 Josy Barthel Luxembourg LUX 29 3.50.6 h
11 3.51.0 Mamo Wolde Ethiopia ETH 24
1500 m Men Round One Heat Two 29 November
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.45.63 Q Merv Lincoln Australia AUS 23 3.45.4 h
2 3.46.90 Q Ken Wood Great Britain GBR 26 3.46.6 h
3 3.47.48 Q Ronnie Delany Ireland IRL 21 3.47.4 h
4 3.48.21 Q László Tábori Hungary HUN 25 3.48.0 h
5 3.49.20 Ingvar Ericsson Sweden SWE 29 3.49.0 h
6 3.49.27 Yevgeny Sokolov Soviet Union URS 25 3.49.2 h
7 3.51.79 Evangelos Depastas Greece GRE 24 3.52.0 h
8 3.55.0 Olavi Salsola Finland FIN 22
9 3.58.0 Günter Dohrow Germany GER 29
10 3.58.1 Ramón Sandoval Chile CHI 25
11 3.59.7 Don Bowden United States USA 20
12 4.06.0 Émile Leva Belgium BEL 24
13 4.09.0 Sim Sang-Ok South Korea KOR 23
14 4.15.0 Mahmoud Jan Pakistan PAK
15 4.30.0 Somnuek Srisombat Thailand THA 24
1500 m Men Round One Heat Three 29 November
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.48.09 Q Neville Scott New Zealand NZL 21 3.48.0 h
2 3.48.10 Q Brian Hewson Great Britain GBR 23 3.48.0 h
3 3.48.67 Q John Landy Australia AUS 26 3.48.6 h
4 3.48.80 Q Gunnar Nielsen Denmark DEN 28 3.48.6 h
5 3.48.84 Dan Waern Sweden SWE 23 3.48.8 h
6 3.52.20 Gianfranco Baraldi Italy ITA 21 3.52.0 h
7 3.52.96 Sergey Sukhanov Soviet Union URS 25 3.53.0 h
8 3.55.60 Jerome Walters United States USA 26 3.55.7 h
9 3.57.57 Georgios Papavasileiou Greece GRE 25 3.57.0 h
10 3.58.45 Eduardo Fontecilla Chile CHI 27 3.58.6 h
AC DNF Siegfried Herrmann Germany GER 24




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