Pyotr Bolitnikov, Rome 1960 gold medalist at 10,000m, R.I.P., by Larry Eder

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From the Russian National Championships, in 1957, where Pyotr Bolitnikov beat Vladimir Kuts by .2 of a second in the 10,000m, until Billy Mills won the 1964 Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters, Pyotr Bolitnikov was the most dominating distance runner of his era. With the 1960 Olympic gold at 10,000m, the gold at 10,000m and bronze at 5,000m in Belgrade in 1962 European championships, the big Russian distance runner (from Moldavia) exemplified the Soviet athlete of the cold war era. Add to Bolitnikov's two world records at 10,000 meters, one in 1960 and one in 1962, and four victories in the USA/USSR meetings, Pyotr Bolitnikov was a force to be reckoned with over 25 laps. Bolitnikov won 13 Russian national titles at the 5,000m, 10,000m and cross country, plus was on the medal stands 19 other times in his career. Pyotr Bolitnikov competed in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympic games, retiring from competition in 1965. 

Luzhniki Stadium.jpg
Luzhniki Stadium, courtesy of IAAF

Pyotr Bolitnikov devoted the rest of his life as an athletics coach, with the Spartacus club, and as a national coach in Algeria (1985-89) and as national club coach for the Russian Federation. 

Early in the evening of December 20, 2013, at the age fo 84, Pyotr Bolitnikov died.  Russian newspapers and the Russian sports agency reported his death with several pieces.  Pyotr Bolitnikov was an athlete of a bygone era, when the US and USSR showed the superiority of their systems with their athletics teams as well as their armies.


Pyotr Bolitnikov, Olympic and European gold medalist over 10,000 meters, two time world record holder, died on December 20, 2013, at the age of 84. Bolitnikov, a former soldier who idolized Emil Zatopek, finished 16th in the 10,000m and ninth in the 5,000m in 1956 Melbourne Olympics. In 1957, Pyotr Bolitnikov showed how great he would be, with his defeat of Olympic and European great Vladmiri Kuts. 

From 1957 to 1965, Bolitnikov won the Rome Olympics 10,000 meters, the European Champs (Belgrade) 10,000 meters, two world records, 13 titles and 19 medals at Soviet and Russian national championships. Bolitnikov also won four USA-USSR titles, the event of the year for athletics during the Cold War. 


After retiring from athletics, Mr. Bolitnikov was a fine endurance coach, as the Senior coach for the CA Spartacus club. Bolitnikov coached Algeria from 1985-1989 and was head of the Central Council of Clubs from 1990-1992. Since 1995, Bolitnikov devoted his coaching to young athletes. 


One of the great distance runners of the post war era, Pyotr Bolitnikov was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1960, Friendship of the Peoples in 1985, Fame in 1995 and Merit III degrees in 1999. 


The Russian news agency reported that the Russian Federation noted, " All-Russian Athletics Federations expresses its deepest condolences to the family, relatives and friends of Pyotr G. Bolotnikova." 


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