|Date||5 February 1972 — 10:00-11:44|
|Location||Makomanai Speed Skating Rink, Sapporo|
|Participants||38 from 16 countries|
|Olympic Record||40.1 / Terry McDermott USA / 4 February 1964|
The event was expected to be between the defending champion, Erhard Keller, the 1971 World Sprint champion, and two-time world-record setter, and Valery Muratov, the 1970 World Sprint champion. But Leo Linkovesi of Finland had recently broken Keller’s world record with 38.0 in Davos in January 1972. And Ard Schenk was a mild threat. Schenk was the greatest all-around skater in the world, and was trying to win four gold medals in the four speed skating events, to duplicate the feat of Lidiya Skoblikova in 1964, but he was a longshot in the 500.
In the first pair Sweden’s Hasse Börjes posted an Olympic record of 39.69, which was considered a formidable time. But Keller bettered it in the third pair, finishing in 39.44, and these two would eventually win the gold and silver medals, as Keller defended his title. Muratov was in the next pairing and his 39.80 brought him the bronze medal. Schenk was in the fifth pair and although anticipation was high, he fell early and although he got and finished the race, he wound up in 34th place. Linkovesi skated next but his 40.14 earned him only sixth place.
Keller was one of the great sprinters of his era. In his career he would set four world records at 500 metres, one in the 1,000 m, and one in the sprint all-around. In addition to his two Olympic golds in this event, he won the distance at the 1968 and 1970 World Winter Universiade, the 1969-70 European Championships, and one race at the 1971 World Sprints. Börjes was also a top sprinter, setting four 500 m world records and winning eight 500s and three 1,000s at major internationals. As a professional, he was World Champion in 1974 and European Champion in 1973-74.
|32||18O||Jappie van Dijk||NED||43.04||10.9|
|AC||16I||Ole Christian Iversen||NOR||–||–||1|