Updated December 29, 2016
Forty years ago today, Ivo Van Damme was killed in an auto accident. He was the hero of a nation, and his silver medals in Montreal in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters made the tall, strong, gutty Belgian an athlete on the cusp of stardom. Here is the piece done by David Hunter on this fine athlete.
For Belgium, Van Damme's premature death in an auto accident in December 1976 extinguished a budding legacy for Belgian middle distance running at the time. The Van Damme Memorial, managed by friends of the late athlete, is a fitting tribute to a fine athlete. David Hunter got it right: for Belgium, Ivo Van Damme was their equivalent of Steve Prefontaine.
Ivo Van Damme was a brilliant Belgian runner whose life was cut short a year after the death of Steve Prefontaine. Van Damme, as one will find out, was not the "usual Belgian". Van Damme was the silver medalist in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. His death, in the Christmas season of 1976, was a shock to his countrymen.
Dave Hunter wrote this piece after his visit to the Van Damme Memorial, a meet established in the honor of the fallen Belgian runner.