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1936 Olympic Games Berlin, Germany - Men's 1500 m



Host City: Berlin, Germany Format: Top three in each heat advanced to the final.
Date Started: August 5, 1936
Date Finished: August 6, 1936
(Competitors: 36; Countries: 22; Finalists: 12)
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Imperial Sports Field, Berlin
Overview by IAAF 1936_olympic_stadium.jpg 
Before the event there were five highly regarded possible winners – Cunningham and San Romani who had both run 3:49.9 in the US Trials, Beccali the reigning champion, Lovelock the Empire Champion, and Wooderson the AAA Champion. Wooderson broke a bone in his ankle just before the Games, and was a shadow of himself in his heat. While the other four made the final without difficulty, lesser lights were the fastest qualifiers, with Goix running 3:54.0 and Erik Ny 3:54.8. In the final Cunningham led through 400m in 61.5 with Lovelock on his shoulder. The pace slowed in the second lap, and Cunningham passed 800m in 2:05.2 with Ny just ahead of him. The American pushed hard over the next 200m, passing 1000m in 2:35.2, but Ny slipped past him just before the bell (2:50.2). Cunningham was on the inside with Lovelock next to him and Beccali 2m back in fourth place. With 300m to go, just as the field was contemplating the finish, Lovelock struck, taking a 4m lead seemingly in 20m. Cunningham powered through the last 300m himself, but could never regain any of the initial yardage obtained by the Kiwi. Indeed Lovelock extended his lead by 2m in the finishing straight, easing off in the last 10m to win by 5m. Lovelock’s time beat the world record of Bill Bonthron by a full second, and was the first time the 1500m record had been broken officially in the Olympic Games.
Summary by
All the top runners from 1932 were back, led by Jack Lovelock, Glenn Cunningham, and the defending champion Luigi Beccali. Cunningham was the top American but barely, as Gene Venzke and Bill Bonthron had pushed him in 1934-35 and formed a formidable American triumvirate. The other top miler present was Britain’s dimunitive Sydney Wooderson. The top race in the year before Berlin was the Princeton Invitational mile, where Lovelock defeated Bonthron and Cunningham.
At the Olympics, most of the favorites made it thru to the final, which also included the silver and bronze medalists from Los Angeles, John “Jerry” Cornes, and Phil Edwards, as well as the USA runner, Archie San Romani, who had beaten out Bonthron at the Olympic Trials. Wooderson was the only favorite who did not come thru the heats. Cunningham went into the lead early, passing 400 metres in 61.5. The pace was slow and Cunningham led thru 800 in 2:05.2 with the field bunched. Sweden’s Eric Ny passed Cunningham on the third lap, and Lovelock moved to his shoulder at the bell. On the curve just past the line, he shot into a four-yard lead and continued to push the pace down the backstretch. Cunningham kept after him but made up no ground until Lovelock eased a bit near the finish, as he won in the world record time of 3:47.8

 1,500  1936 Olympic Games in Berlin

The three favorites for this Olympic final were all reaching the climax of their careers. Luigi Beccali (29) of Italy had broken the WR for 1500 in 1933; he was also the reigning Olympic and European 1,500 champion. American Glenn Cunningham (25) was the current WR holder for the Mile, and he had been fourth in the 1932 Olympic 1,500 final.  New Zealander Jack Lovelock (26) had set a Mile WR in 1933 but had not subsequently run as well. Still, a recent 3:01 time-trial over 1,200 showed he was back to his best form. These three great runners knew each other well from previous encounters on the track. Beccali had the best record, having beaten Cunningham once and Lovelock twice. Cunningham had beaten both men once, while Lovelock had beaten Cunningham three times. All three were known for great finishing kicks, so it promised to be a tactical race.

Lovelock (467) positions himself behind Ny
and outside Cunningham.

The build-up to this race was huge. Even Hitler was keen to be present. The tough Cunningham, who had survived terrible burns to both legs in his childhood, was not expected to be affected by the pressure. Lovelock, on the other hand was highly strung and for the week before the final needed a masseur to relax him enough for sleeping. Beccali, the reigning 1,500 champion, had already shown he could take the pressure.

The heats, held the day before the final, definitely gave Lovelock an advantage. Whereas Beccali and Cunningham had hard heats, running 3:55.6 and 3:54.8 respectively, Lovelock qualified in the very slow time of 4:04.

A crowd of 112,000 was on hand for the 1,500 final. There was a short delay because Hitler arrived late. Then the 12 finalists were under starter’s orders.

Jerry Cornes, Lovelock’s colleague at Oxford, took the field through 200 in 30.0 and 400 in 61.5, with Lovelock well back. At 500 Cunningham, anxious to keep the pace fast, moved into the lead. Lovelock, clearly keying on the American, reacted quickly. By the end of the back straight they were one and two. Beccali had also moved up to stay in contact. As they approached 800, Ny of Sweden moved up quickly and settled between Cunningham and Lovelock. At 800 (2:05.2) Cunningham led Ny, Lovelock and Beccali, who was now right on Lovelock’s heels. Round the bend, Ny was unable to get an inside berth, while others three leaders hugged the kerb. The field bunched as it approached the bell. There was some bumping, and Ny forced Cunningham off the track for a couple of strides. As well, Beccali bumped hard with the German Schaumberg. An impatient Ny passed Cunningham to lead at 1100 (the bell). Lovelock moved out and up to Cunningham’s shoulder—perfect positioning.

The powerful Cunningham looked ready to breeze past the Swede, but the smooth-running Lovelock was still very close to him. At the crown of the bend, Lovelock quickly moved by the American and settled at Ny’s shoulder. Cunningham sped up too, but relaxed on the inside behind Ny, once he saw that Lovelock was staying on Ny’s shoulder. They passed 1200 in 3:05.4; the 60.2 third lap had been unusually fast. But as soon as Cunningham had relaxed behind Ny, Lovelock took off again with a hard burst. Cunningham and Beccali reacted, but they lost contact with the Kiwi. His burst had put him 3-4 meters ahead. Down the back straight, Cunningham and Beccali could make no impression on him. Ny and Schaumberg dropped back.

Entering the straight, Lovelock has a clear lead from
Cunningham and Beccali. 

With 200 to go, Lovelock knew he had a decent lead and relaxed slightly round the bend so that he would have something for the last straight. Behind him, Beccali came up to Cunningham’s shoulder. The two closed the gap fractionally, but Lovelock, still running gracefully, was able to lengthen his lead a little in the final 100 as a desperate Cunningham held off Beccali for second place.  Lovelock had run the last lap in 56.8 and had broken Bonthron’s World Record by a second. Cunningham was also under the old mark.

Lovelock described the last part of the race in his diary: “Just before entering the back straight I felt the tension of the field relax and realized, subconsciously perhaps, that everyone was taking a breather ready for a hard last 200. So at the 300m mark I struck home, passed Cunningham and gained a five-yard break before he awoke. Then it was merely a question of holding that suddenly acquired break which, had I left it later till everyone else was going to move, I could never have gained, and the fight would have been sterner and closer….  I finished with perfect form, relaxed and comfortable, and jogged on another half lap. It was undoubtedly the most beautifully executed race of my career, a true climax to eight years’ steady work, an athletic creation.”

Lovelock had got himself in peak condition and had run a perfect race. “His success left little to the imagination,” wrote the Times correspondent. “It was so complete and faultless.” (The Times, August 7,1936, p.4)   


Result: 1. Jack Lovelock, New Zealand 3:47.8; 2. Glenn Cunningham, USA 3:48.4; 3. Luigi Beccali, Italy 3:49.2.

1500 m Men Final 6 August
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.47.8 Jack Lovelock New Zealand NZL 26 WR
2 3.48.4 Glenn Cunningham United States USA 26
3 3.49.2 Luigi Beccali Italy ITA 28
4 3.50.0 Archie San Romani United States USA 23
5 3.50.4 Phil Edwards Canada CAN 28
6 3.51.4 Jerry Cornes Great Britain GBR 26
7 3.53.0 Miklós Szabó Hungary HUN 27
8 3.53.8 Robert Goix France FRA 30
9 3.55.0 Gene Venzke United States USA 28
10 3.56.2 Fritz Schaumburg Germany GER 30
11 3.57.6 Eric Ny Sweden SWE 26
12 4.04.2 Werner Böttcher Germany GER 26
1500 m Men Round One Heat One 5 August
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1T 3.54.8 Q Eric Ny Sweden SWE 26
1T 3.54.8 Q Glenn Cunningham United States USA 26
3 3.55.0 Q Werner Böttcher Germany GER 26
4 3.55.6 Ossi Teileri Finland FIN 24
5 3.56.0 Mihály Iglói Hungary HUN 27
6 4.01.4 Grigorios Georgakopoulos Greece GRE
7 René Geeraert Belgium BEL 27
8 Børge Larsen Denmark DEN 25
9 Pierre Hemmer Luxembourg LUX 24
10 Paul Martin Switzerland SUI 34
1500 m Men Round One Heat Two 5 August
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 4.00.4 Q Gene Venzke United States USA 28
2 4.00.6 Q Jerry Cornes Great Britain GBR 26
3 4.00.6 Q Jack Lovelock New Zealand NZL 26
4 4.01.0 Pierre Leichtnam France FRA 25
5 4.02.0 Clarke Scholtz South Africa RSA 24
6 4.04.8 Kiyoshi Nakamura Japan JPN 23
7 4.13.0 Emil Goršek Yugoslavia YUG 21
8 Emil Hübscher Austria AUT 23
9 Jack Liddle Canada CAN 25
10 Miguel Castro Chile CHI 25
AC DNF Martti Matilainen Finland FIN 28
1500 m Men Round One Heat Three 5 August
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.55.6 Q Luigi Beccali Italy ITA 28
2 3.55.6 Q Miklós Szabó Hungary HUN 27
3 3.56.2 Q Phil Edwards Canada CAN 28
4 3.56.6 Bobby Graham Great Britain GBR 26
5 3.59.4 Bedřich Hošek Czechoslovakia TCH 24
6 3.59.6 André Glatigny France FRA 21
7 Gerald Backhouse Australia AUS 23
8 Harry Mehlhose Germany GER 22
9 4.26.2 Reginald Uba Estonia EST 25
10 Jia Lianren China CHN 23
11 Emilio Torres Colombia COL 26
1500 m Men Round One Heat Four 5 August
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 3.54.0 Q Robert Goix France FRA 30
2 3.55.0 Q Archie San Romani United States USA 23
3 3.55.2 Q Fritz Schaumburg Germany GER 30
4 3.56.6 Joseph Mostert Belgium BEL 24
5 3.59.0 Niilo Hartikka Finland FIN 27
6 3.59.2 Franz Eichberger Austria AUT 23
7 Ragnar Ekholdt Norway NOR 22
8 Hugh Thompson Canada CAN
9 Charles Stein Luxembourg LUX 25
10 Francisco Váldez Peru PER 35
AC DNF Sydney Wooderson Great Britain GBR 21




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