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| Event type

1,500 metres, Men

Date9 – 10 July 1912
StatusOlympic
LocationStockholms Olympiastadion, Stockholm
Participants45 from 14 countries
Olympic Record 4:03.4 / Mel Sheppard USA / 14 July 1908
4:03.4 / Norman Hallows GBR / 13 July 1908

As late as 1985, Cordner Nelson and Roberto Quercetani, two distinguished track & field historians, labeled this “the greatest race ever run,” noting, “The 1912 Olympic Games at Stockholm produced the greatest mile or 1500 meter race ever run from the standpoint of exciting competition between fast runners.” Much of what follows is based on their excellent summary.

There were five highly considered runners who started this event at Stockholm. One was the defending Olympic champion, Mel Sheppard. He was primarily a half-miler, and only the day before this event started, he lost narrowly in the 800 metre semi-final.

There were three other top Americans. John Paul Jones had won the 1911 and 1912 IC4A title at 880 yards and one mile. On 27 May 1911, Jones set a world amateur record in the mile with 4:15.4 in winning the IC4A at Cambridge. After the 1912 IC4A meet, he stopped training, not planning on competing at the Olympics, but he was convinced to resume training and travel to Stockholm.

Norm Taber of Brown University had done little prior to 1912. But on 1 June he finished in a dead-heat with Jones in the IC4A mile. And at the eastern Olympic Trial, one week later, he ran 1,500 metres in 3:56.4, bettering the world record, but he finished only second in the race.

Taber finished second in the eastern Olympic Trial because of a highly talented, diminutive runner named Abel Kiviat. Kiviat had first achieved prominence in 1909, winning the Canadian mile championship. In 1911 he won the AAU mile championship. On 26 May 1912, Kiviat ran in the New York Post Office Clerk’s Association Games at Celtic Park on Long Island, winning the mile narrowly over Mel Sheppard, but setting a new 1,500 metre world record of 3:59.2 in doing so. In a handicap race at the same track on 2 June, he bettered that mark off scratch, recording 3:56.8. The record would be short-lived, as on 8 June, at the eastern Olympic Trial, he defeated Taber with another world record of 3:55.8. His hot running and three world records in only a few weeks made him the Olympic favorite.

Despite the four great American runners, Britain had a top talent in Arnold Jackson, but one who had little background as a miler. A well-rounded athlete who attended Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1912 he won the Oxford University Athletic Club mile and won the mile against Cambridge in a good time of 4:21.6. Based on those performances, he was named to the British Olympic team for Stockholm.

There were seven heats in round one, with the top two finishers in each heat advancing to the final. The five favorites qualified easily, although Jackson and Jones had been drawn in the same heat. The final consisted of 14 runners - seven Americans, three Swedes, two Brits, and a lone Frenchman and German. The four top Americans would be well protected by their group of seven teammates.

The “greatest race ever run” began at 3:30 PM (1530) on Wednesday, 10 July 1912. The pace was set by the Frenchman, Henri Arnaud, who passed 400 metres in 1:05 and 800 metres in 2:08. Taber led at 1,000 metres in 2:39, but at 1,200 metres, Kiviat took the lead in 3:09, closely followed by his teammates, Taber and Jones. Jackson had been running last most of the race, but passed Sheppard on the backstretch and began moving up the field. On the final curve, Kiviat continued to lead, followed by Taber, Jackson, Jones, and Sheppard. Taber pulled even with Kiviat at the start of the straightaway. With 50 metres remaining, Jackson pulled even with Kiviat and Taber, with Jones close behind and Sweden’s Ernst Wide closing fast as well. It was only 10 metres from the tape that Jackson edged ahead to win by 1/10th second from Kiviat (silver medal) and Taber (bronze medal). Kiviat and Taber were so close that the finish camera was needed to determine the final medal placements, the only time this was used to determine a placement at the 1912 Olympics. Jones finished fourth with Wide in fifth.

Jackson described the race in his own words, “Perhaps it is impossible in an Olympic mile to notice who got the lead, when and where, and Kiviat seemed to me to have the lead inside most of the way and Mr P. J. Baker and I had to get along the best way we could and not very near the front either. There we rubbed along until the bell went for the last lap. We then moved up and dropped Sheppard and several others who no doubt were rather tired after the general bustle and their previous efforts. With three hundred and fifty yards to go Paul Jones and Kiviat were well placed but coming round the last bend I got in behind them and running wide caught them with about a hundred yards to go. Running neck and neck for fifty yards I passed them and got home by about two yards, as far as I am told. A perfect day and capital fellow competitors helped the Olympic record to go and I am very grateful and proud to have run with Mr Kiviat, Taber, and Jones and all the others. I believe that the result of the second and third places was not given out until the photograph had been developed and Mr Kiviat just beat Mr Taber on the post with Mr Jones right on to them. ‘U.S.A. right there all the time!’”

Arnold Nugent Strode Jackson (who later changed his name spelling to Arnold Nugent Strode Strode-Jackson) ran only a few more races in a very short, yet meteoric career. He won the Oxbridge mile race again in 1913 and 1914, and his career totalled no more than six top quality races. He joined the British army in World War I, serving with distinction, and becoming the youngest Brigadier-General in the British Army. He won the DSO and three bars, decorations so matched by only six other British officers. He was later a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1921, and was awarded the CBE for his works. He settled in the United States, eventually becoming an American citizen.

PosNrAthleteNOCR1Final
1Arnold JacksonGBR4:10.8 (1 h4)3:56.8 (1)GoldOR
2Abel KiviatUSA4:04.4 (1 h3)3:56.9 (2)Silver
3Norm TaberUSA4:25.5 (1 h2)3:56.9 (3)Bronze
4John Paul JonesUSA4:12.4 (2 h4)3:57.2 (4)
5Ernst WideSWE4:06.0 (1 h7)3:57.6 (5)
6Philip BakerGBR4:26.0 (2 h2)4:01.0est (6)
7John ZanderSWE4:05.5 (1 h5)4:02.0est (7)
8Walter McClureUSA4:07.3 (2 h7)– (8)
ACHenri ArnaudFRA4:05.4 (2 h3)– (AC)
ACErwin von SigelGER4:09.3 (1 h6)– (AC)
ACEvert BjörnSWE4:07.2 (2 h5)– (AC)
ACMel SheppardUSA4:27.6 (1 h1)– (AC)
ACFrederick HedlundUSA4:10.8 (2 h6)– (AC)
ACLouis MadeiraUSA4:27.9 (2 h1)– (AC)
3 h1 r1/2Albert HareGBR4:39.4 (3 h1)
3 h2 r1/2Georg AmbergerGER4:27.0 (3 h2)
3 h3 r1/2Norman PattersonUSA4:05.5 (3 h3)
3 h4 r1/2John VictorRSA4:12.7 (3 h4)
3 h5 r1/2Herbert PutnamUSA4:07.6 (3 h5)
3 h6 r1/2William MooreGBR4:11.2 (3 h6)
3 h7 r1/2William CottrillGBR– (3 h7)
4 h3 r1/2Jack TaitCAN– (4 h3)
4 h4 r1/2Lewis AndersonUSA– (4 h4)
4 h5 r1/2Richard YorkeGBR– (4 h5)
4 h6 r1/2Nils FrykbergSWE4:11.2est (4 h6)
4 h7 r1/2Efraim HarjuFIN– (4 h7)
5 h3 r1/2Ferenc ForgácsHUN– (5 h3)
5 h4 r1/2Oscar LarsenNOR– (5 h4)
5 h5 r1/2Georg MicklerGER– (5 h5)
5 h7 r1/2Yevgeny PetrovRUS– (5 h7)
6 h4 r1/2Arnolds IndriksonsRUS– (6 h4)
7 h4 r1/2Alfrēds RuksRUS– (7 h4)
AC h2 r1/2Teofil SavnikyHUN– (AC h2)
AC h2 r1/2Rūdolfs VītolsRUS– (AC h2)
AC h2 r1/2Dmitry NazarovRUS– (AC h2)
AC h3 r1/2François DelloyeBEL– (AC h3)
AC h3 r1/2Eddie OwenGBR– (AC h3)
AC h3 r1/2Ole Jacob PedersenNOR– (AC h3)
AC h5 r1/2Charles RuffellGBR– (AC h5)
AC h5 r1/2Aleksandr YelizarovRUS– (AC h5)
AC h5 r1/2Nikolay KhorkovRUS– (AC h5)
AC h6 r1/2Fred HulfordGBR– (AC h6)
AC h6 r1/2Guido CalviITA– (AC h6)
AC h6 r1/2Andrejs KrūkliņšRUS– (AC h6)
AC h7 r1/2Vahram PapazyanTUR– (AC h7)
DNSPyotr TimofeyevRUS
DNSIosif ZaytsevRUS
DNSGeorges DumonteuilFRA
DNSAnton NilssonSWE
DNSRobert HalesGBR
DNSCharles DenisFRA
DNSImre LászlóHUN
DNSOtto PalotaiHUN
DNSMihály VáradiHUN
DNSGyula BeluHUN
DNSMarcel QuilbeufFRA
DNSAugust ElmikRUS
DNSGeorges RenauxFRA
DNSZdzisław LatawiecAUT
DNSLennart AndrénSWE
DNSFred McNairUSA
DNSFréderic BelargeBEL
DNSErling SøilandNOR
DNSWilliam CrabbieGBR
DNSJosef LindblomSWE
DNSPaul FonsecaFRA
DNSRené GiraudFRA
DNSGyula KissHUN
DNSEugène BatsFRA
DNSDouglas McNicolGBR
DNSJános AntalHUN
DNSGeorge HillANZ
DNSFederico MuellerCHI
DNSÖdön BodorHUN
DNSJózsef NagyHUN
DNSEmilio LunghiITA
DNSPyotr GayevskyRUS
DNSKlas LundströmSWE
DNSBror ModighSWE
DNSThorild OlssonSWE
DNSWallace McCurdyUSA

Round One (9 July 1912 — 14:30)

Top two finishers in each heat advanced to the final.

Heat One

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Mel SheppardUSA4:27.6Q
2Louis MadeiraUSA4:27.9Q
3Albert HareGBR4:39.4

Heat Two

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Norm TaberUSA4:25.5Q
2Philip BakerGBR4:26.0Q
3Georg AmbergerGER4:27.0
ACTeofil SavnikyHUN
ACRūdolfs VītolsRUS
ACDmitry NazarovRUSDNF

Heat Three

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Abel KiviatUSA4:04.4Q
2Henri ArnaudFRA4:05.4Q
3Norman PattersonUSA4:05.5
4Jack TaitCAN
5Ferenc ForgácsHUN
ACFrançois DelloyeBEL
ACOle Jacob PedersenNOR
ACEddie OwenGBRDNF

Heat Four

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Arnold JacksonGBR4:10.8Q
2John Paul JonesUSA4:12.4Q
3John VictorRSA4:12.7
4Lewis AndersonUSA
5Oscar LarsenNOR
6Arnolds IndriksonsRUS
7Alfrēds RuksRUS

Heat Five

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1John ZanderSWE4:05.5Q
2Evert BjörnSWE4:07.2Q
3Herbert PutnamUSA4:07.6
4Richard YorkeGBR
5Georg MicklerGER
ACAleksandr YelizarovRUS
ACNikolay KhorkovRUS
ACCharles RuffellGBRDNF

Heat Six

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Erwin von SigelGER4:09.3Q
2Frederick HedlundUSA4:10.8Q
3William MooreGBR4:11.2
4Nils FrykbergSWE4:11.2est
ACAndrejs KrūkliņšRUS
ACFred HulfordGBR
ACGuido CalviITADNF

Heat Seven

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Ernst WideSWE4:06.0Q
2Walter McClureUSA4:07.3Q
3William CottrillGBR
4Efraim HarjuFIN
5Yevgeny PetrovRUS
ACVahram PapazyanTURDNF

Final (10 July 1912 — 15:30)

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1Arnold JacksonGBR3:56.8OR
2Abel KiviatUSA3:56.9
3Norm TaberUSA3:56.9
4John Paul JonesUSA3:57.2
5Ernst WideSWE3:57.6
6Philip BakerGBR4:01.0est
7John ZanderSWE4:02.0est
8Walter McClureUSA
ACMel SheppardUSA
ACHenri ArnaudFRA
ACFrederick HedlundUSA
ACErwin von SigelGER
ACLouis MadeiraUSA
ACEvert BjörnSWE

Splits

400 m1:05Henri Arnaud
800 m2:08Henri Arnaud
1000 m2:39Norm Taber
1200 m3:09Abel Kiviat