Rudolf Harbig

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 0
Bronze 1
Total 1
RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameRudolf Woldemar•Harbig
Used nameRudolf•Harbig
Born8 November 1913 in Dresden, Sachsen (GER)
Died5 March 1944 in Wilchowez, Cherkasy (UKR)
Measurements174 cm / 62 kg
AffiliationsDresdner SC, Dresden (GER)
NOC Germany


Rudi Harbig was the great rival of Mario Lanzi over 800 metres in the 1930s. They met at an International in Milano on 15 July 1939, with Harbig winning in the stunning world record time of 1:46.6, which shattered the previous record of 1:48.4, Lanzi running second. Harbig’s record would not be broken for 19 years. In 1938, Harbig won the European Championships over 800 metres, with the non-Olympian Jacques Lévèque (FRA) second and Lanzi third, and took a second gold with the 4×400 metres relay team (with Hermann Blazejezak and the non-Olympians Manfred Bues and Erich Linnhoff). Harbig was first noticed by German sports authorities in 1934 when he won the “Tag des Unbekannten Sportsmannes”, and they then promoted his career.

Although he was never interested in politics he reluctantly joined the SA in 1937, and the Nazis exploited his sport career as a model for their propaganda. At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin he won the bronze medal with the 4x400 meters relay together with Friedrich von Stülpnagel, Harry Voigt and Helmut Hamann, and was eliminated in the heats over 800 meters. Domestically he was German Champion 1936-42 seven times in a row over 800 meters. He set two more world records over 400 meters in 46.0 in 1939 and with the 4x800 meters relay in 1941.

Killed in action in 1944, he became a sports legend in both parts of Germany after World War II. In 1955 his wife, Gerda Heinrich, published “Unvergessener Rudolf Harbig. Ein Lebensbild des Weltrekordläufers” in East Germany and the Dresden stadium was named after him. In West Germany the Rudolf-Harbig-Gedächtnispreis was introduced for German track & field athletes, and in 2008 he was inducted into the German Sports Hall of Fame.

Personal Bests: 400 – 46.0 (1939); 800 – 1:46.6 (1939).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Athletics GER Rudolf Harbig
800 metres, Men (Olympic) 6 h1 r1/3
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Germany 3 Bronze

Special Notes