This is the first in a series from senior writer Jeff Benjamin, concerning the 50th anniversary of the Munich 1972 Olympics. This piece is on Frank Shorter remembering the amazing gold medal race of Dave Wottle, the US runner who took gold in a huge upset in Munich on 2 September 1972.
The Munich Olympics at 50!
First In A Series – September 2nd, 1972
Dave Wottle’s Olympic 800 Win Through The Eyes Of Frank Shorter!
By Jeff Benjamin
It is one of the iconic performances in Olympic history.
America’s Dave Wottle, seemingly looking lethargic and outcast throughout the first lap of the Munich Olympic Games 800 final, would amazingly (and with almost even 200 splits for the race!) come upon the leaders of the race with 150 meters to go and go by the tiring Mike Boit of Kenya to win by one of the slimmest of margins, beating Yevgeny Arzhanov by 0.03 seconds!
Watching both on television and in the stadium sent shockwaves throughout the sports world, but one person probably was able to watch this iconic race from a grand perspective better than anyone else.
Just one day after becoming the first American to run under 28 minutes in the Olympic 10,000-meter qualifier race (27:58.23), Frank Shorter probably had the best seat in the house to watch his friend Wottle get the Gold!
Wottle and his wife were staying in a room with Shorter in the Olympic village. Shorter was sleeping on the balcony.
“It was unbelievable!”, recalled Shorter. The athlete’s section where I was sitting was 10 yards from the finish line, and Dave’s newlywed wife Jan was sitting on my right.,” said Shorter.
“We watched as Arzhanov was pulling away down the final straight,” said Shorter, noting how Wottle was picking up steam.
“Dave leaned like a sprinter, and it couldn’t have been any closer,” said Shorter, who not only felt the exhilaration for his teammate but also a little pain as well.
“I felt something and looked at my right forearm, and Jan had imprinted her nails in my arm, but it didn’t quite draw blood,” said Shorter.
Without a doubt, Shorter was inspired as the next day in the Olympic 10,000 final, he would finish 5th behind Finn Lasse Viren with another new American record time of 27:51.32. Shorter would later write how after this race, he knew his speed endurance was at a level that the rest of the world’s distance runners did not possess in the Olympic Marathon.
But, also, a little visualization for Shorter didn’t hurt either!
“Dave’s Gold Medal was on his dresser, and I got to look at it for days until the Marathon,” said Shorter, who a little more than a week later would go on to make Olympic history as well!
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