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1960 Olympic Games Roma, Italy - Men's 1500 m



Host City: Roma, Italy Format: Top three in each heat advanced to the final.
Date Started: September 3, 1960
Date Finished: September 6, 1960
(Competitors: 39; Countries: 26; Finalists: 9)
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Roma
Overview by IAAF 1960_olympico_stadio1.jpg 
Elliott was the fastest qualifier with 3:41.4 (3:41.50), the other heats being won by Bernard – 3:42.2 (3:42.34) – and Waern – 3:43.9 (3:44.18), with Terence Sullivan (Rhodesia) the unluckiest in the heats, clocking 3:42.8 (3:42.96) in Elliott’s heat but placing a non-qualifying fourth. Bernard took the lead in the final, with Waern and the surprising Vamoș following the Frenchman’s quick pace through 200m in 28.3 and 400 in 58.2. The order was the same at the end of a slower second 400m of 59.6, with the eighth 100m segment the slowest of the race at 15.3. Elliott then struck, running his next 100m in 13.2. No-one had ever broken open the Olympic 1500m at such an early stage, but only Rózsavölgyi and Jazy could initially go with Elliott. By the end of the third lap, covered in 56.2 seconds, the Aussie had 3m on his pursuers; his next two 100m segments of 13.4 and 13.6 extended that to almost 15m, and even though he slowed slightly in the last 100m, 14.4 he went through the tape almost 20m clear of Jazy. Rózsavölgyi was third some 5m clear of Dan Waern. Elliott had been inspired four years earlier by the exploits of Vladimir Kuts in Melbourne and, with a world record here, superseded his hero. Elliott, thought of as exhibiting a killer instinct, particularly in this race, later noted that “the greatest stimulator of my running was fear”.
Summary by
Since World War II, no Olympic 1,500 had an overwhelming favorite entering the race. That changed in 1960 with the presence of Australian Herb Elliott. His great year had been 1958 when he broke the world record in both the 1,500 (3:36.0) and the mile (3:54.5). He was not quite as dominant in 1959 but he was still undefeated as an adult over both distances. But at the end of 1959 he moved to Portsea where he trained under the legendary coach Percy Cerutty, to prepare for the Roma Olympics. In the heats he qualified easily, with nine runners advancing. His main opposition was felt to come from France’s Michel Jazy and Hungary’s István Rózsavölgyi. The final was led out by French runner Michel Bernard, who passed 800 metres in 1:57.8 with Elliott on his shoulder. Elliott then jumped into the lead, running the next 100 in 13.2, and he stretched out the field. He reached the start line in 2:54.0 for 1,200 metres, and continued to push the pace, the field trailing far behind him. At the end of the backstretch, Percy Cerutty waved a white towel, telling Elliott he was on world record pace. He tied up only slightly in the home straight, finishing with a world record of 3:35.6. Jazy trailed in second, almost three seconds back, with Rózsavölgyi getting the bronze medal. Thru the rest of 1960, Elliott ran numerous races, but never ran another mile or 1,500 after the end of the year. In 1961 he ran a few half-miles and then retired, never having lost at 1,500 or the mile. Considered the greatest miler ever at the time, many felt his short career left him far from his enormous potential.


This race had a clear favorite: Australian Herb Elliott. His stunning Mile and 1,500 WRs in 1958 had shocked the world. The only concern was his lack of top-class competition immediately before the Games. Still, there were some other good runners in the field. Dan Waern of Sweden and Rozsavolgyi of Hungary were the pick from Europe. And France had two fine finalists in Michel Bernard and Michel Jazy. Two other potential medalists, Merv Lincoln of Australia and Siegfried Valentin of East Germany, were eliminated in the heats. 

Elliott’s well-known tactic was to go early, so the chances of a highly tactical race were low. But the early parts of the race needed a self-sacrificing pacemaker if it wasn’t to be a dawdle. Then it was just a question of whether anyone could hang on to Elliott and challenge him in the last 100. 

Elliott pushing the pace as he approaches the bell. Rozsavolgyi,
Jazy (hidden), Vamos, Bernard, Burleson and Waern follow.

Fortunately for Elliott a perfect pace-maker emerged in Michel Bernard, a 1,500/5,000 runner  who went straight to the front and led the field through the first 800. His pace was perfect for a WR: 28.3, 58.2, 1:27.4, 1:57.8. Elliott, who had started comfortably, gradually moved though the field and was third at 800. Then he made his move—much earlier than expected. He upped the pace with a 13.2 100 meters (the race had averaged 14.7 until then). The field went with him. After running the bend and the straight to the bell almost as fast, he took off again, running the 100 meters of the curve in 14.0. His third lap had taken 56.0. This last 100 had finally broken up the field. At 1200 he was 3 meters up on Rozsavolgyi, 5 on Jazy, 8 on Vamos, and 13 on Bernard and Burleson.

With 300 to go, Elliott went even faster with a 13.2 100 meters. Behind him Jazy moved by Rozsavolgyi but was now 8 meters down on the Australian. Elliott maintained his fast speed with a 13.6 100 round the final bend. This gave him a 15-meter lead as he faced the wind in the last 100. Although Elliott slowed in the run in, his margin of victory increased  even more. He finished in a new WR of 3:35.6, beating his own WR by 0.4. He had run the last 800 in 1:52.8. Behind him Jazy, running the race of his life, held off the closing Rozsavolgyi for the silver. The experienced Dan Waern came through from seventh to fourth in the last 300 to catch the surprising Zoltan Vamos (previous PB 3:40.5) in the last meters. 

It was an instinctive performance by Elliott; he was too strong, too determined and too talented for his opponents. Roger Bannister, writing for Sports Illustrated, described Elliott’s race poetically: “It was Elliott, with the hawk nose, the gaunt Viking face; Elliott of the lean body and the smooth stride; Elliott, lithe and stealthy, about as gentle as a tiger. This was a man made for this form of self-expression, the rest of the field having somehow learned it painfully and inadequately. This was running, the instinctive and unfettered expression of every potentiality.” (Sept 19, 1960)

Jazy ran the race of his life and obliterated his PB.  In his autobiography he wrote little about this great race, but the few words showed he was mentally prepared for the biggest race of his life: “I was wonderfully lucid. This time I didn’t let myself get boxed in. We were in one group. But I knew that sooner or later  a break would scatter us to the four winds.” (122)  Rozsavolgyi at 31 ran brilliantly for third. He was only a fraction of a second outside his 3:38.9 PB 

1. Herb Elliott AUS 3:35.6 WR; 2. Michel Jazy FRA 3:38.4; 3. Istvan Rozsavolgyi HUN 3:39.2; 4. Dan Waern SWE 3:40.0; 5. Zoltan Vamos RUM 3:40.8; 6. Dyrol Burleson USA 3:40.9.

(Note: Thanks to Track & Field News for the useful 100 splits in this race.)

1500 m Men Final 6 September
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.35.6 Herb Elliott Australia AUS 22 WR
2 3.38.4 Michel Jazy France FRA 24
3 3.39.2 István Rózsavölgyi Hungary HUN 31
4 3.40.0 Dan Waern Sweden SWE 27
5 3.40.8 Zoltan Vamoş Romania ROU 24
6 3.40.9 Dyrol Burleson United States USA 20
7 3.41.5 Michel Bernard France FRA 28
8 3.45.0 Jim Grelle United States USA 23
9 3.45.0 Arne Hamarsland Norway NOR 27
1500 m Men Round One Heat One 3 September
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.41.50 Q Herb Elliott Australia AUS 22 3.41.4 h
2 3.42.15 Q István Rózsavölgyi Hungary HUN 31 3.42.0 h
3 3.42.40 Q Dyrol Burleson United States USA 20 3.42.2 h
4 3.42.96 Terry Sullivan Rhodesia RHO 24 3.42.8 h
5 3.43.80 Yevgeny Momotkov Soviet Union URS 24 3.43.6 h
6 3.46.57 Olavi Salonen Finland FIN 26 3.46.4 h
7 3.47.24 Rudolf Klaban Austria AUT 22 3.47.1 h
8 3.47.57 Arthur Hannemann Germany GER 24 3.47.4 h
9 3.48.24 Laurie Reed Great Britain GBR 24 3.47.9 h
10 3.53.45 Joe Mullins Canada CAN 22 3.53.1 h
11 3.56.10 Tomás Barris Spain ESP 30 3.57.3 h
12 3.58.52 Mohamed Gouider Tunisia TUN 19 3.58.4 h
AC DNF Zbigniew Orywał Poland POL 30
1500 m Men Round One Heat Two 3 September
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.42.34 Q Michel Bernard France FRA 28 3.42.2 h
2 3.43.65 Q Jim Grelle United States USA 23 3.43.5 h
3 3.44.63 Q Arne Hamarsland Norway NOR 27 3.44.4 h
4 3.46.21 Brian Kent-Smith Great Britain GBR 24 3.46.1 h
5 3.46.95 Albie Thomas Australia AUS 25 3.46.8 h
6 3.46.99 Siegfried Valentin Germany GER 24 3.46.9 h
7 3.47.20 Svavar Markússon Iceland ISL 25 3.47.1 h
8 3.47.56 Alfredo Rizzo Italy ITA 27 3.47.3 h
9 3.47.71 Andrei Barabaş Romania ROU 22 3.47.4 h
10 3.47.18 Muharrem Dalkılıç Turkey TUR 22 3.47.9 h
11 4.24.4 Dhira Phiphobmongkol Thailand THA 26
AC DNF Péter Parsch Hungary HUN 24
AC DNF Egon Oehri Liechtenstein LIE 20
1500 m Men Round One Heat Three 3 September
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.44.18 Q Dan Waern Sweden SWE 27 3.43.9 h
2 3.45.03 Q Michel Jazy France FRA 24 3.44.9 h
3 3.45.07 Q Zoltan Vamoş Romania ROU 24 3.44.9 h
4 3.45.46 Adolf Schwarte Germany GER 25 3.45.3 h
5 3.46.20 Lajos Kovács Hungary HUN 24 3.46.0 h
6 3.46.61 Mike Wiggs Great Britain GBR 22 3.46.5 h
7 3.47.18 Merv Lincoln Australia AUS 26 3.46.8 h
8 3.48.77 Evangelos Depastas Greece GRE 28 3.48.4 h
9 3.50.69 Pete Close United States USA 22 3.50.2 h
10 3.52.68 Olavi Vuorisalo Finland FIN 27 3.52.2 h
11 3.59.75 Stefan Lewandowski Poland POL 30 3.59.3 h
12 4.00.14 Yair Pantilat Israel ISR 21 3.59.8 h
13 4.00.33 Kassim Mukhtar Iraq IRQ 4.00.1 h




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