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| Event type

Marathon, Women

Date 5 August 1984 — 8:00
StatusOlympic
LocationLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
Participants50 from 28 countries
Format42,195 metres (26 miles, 385 yards) point-to-point.

Women had been known to run marathons since at least the 1920s, but it was not until the 1960s that this was well-known when several woman, among them Katherine Switzer and Roberta Gibb, broke into the all-male Boston Marathon. By 1973, the West Germans had established the first all-female marathons, and the pioneer administrator who supported women in the marathon was the German Dr. Ernst van Aaken. In 1983 a women’s marathon was included at the first Athletics World Championships in Helsinki, won by Grete Waitz of Norway. Waitz, a former track runner, was the first great female marathoner, winning the New York Marathon from 1979-83, and she would eventually win New York nine times. She was the early favorite for Los Angeles. Also to be watched were Portugal’s Rosa Mota, who had won the 1982 European Championship, and America’s Joan Benoit, who won the 1979 and 1983 Boston Marathon. Her 1983 Boston win was in a world marathon best time of 2-22:43. But Benoit was not fully healthy, having required arthroscopic surgery on her knee only a few weeks before the US Olympic Trial, and she was considered fortunate to make the team.

The women’s marathon was the first track & field event of the 1984 Olympics, starting at 8 AM. It started at the Santa Monica City College track and ran along LA freeways to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Benoit moved into the lead at 7 km., and Waitz let her get away, saying later that she thought the move was made too early. But Benoit never came back. She stayed in the lead throughout, running by herself for most of the race, winning by almost 1½ minutes, with Waitz winning the silver medal and Mota the bronze.

Finishing in 37th place was Swiss runner Gaby Andersen-Schiess, but that simple statement belies the drama of her finish. Andersen-Schiess was not a medal favorite but was still considered a top runner. However, the heat affected her and when she entered the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at the finish of the race, she essentially wobbled onto the track, her form redolent of Dorando Pietri in 1908 or Jim Peters at the finish of the 1954 British Empire Games marathon. Andersen-Schiess’s course was all over the track on her final lap of the stadium, as she could not maintain a straight line, and she appeared near collapse throughout. There were calls to remove her from the race and stop her, for fears of her health, but no one intervened and she finished the race. Though exhausted, she was well within a few hours and suffered no ill effects from her effort.

PosNrAthleteNOCTime
1361Joan BenoitUSA2-24:52GoldOR
2289Grete WaitzNOR2-26:18Silver
3303Rosa MotaPOR2-26:57Bronze
4286Ingrid KristiansenNOR2-27:34
5292Lorraine MollerNZL2-28:34
6180Priscilla WelchGBR2-28:54
716Lisa MartinAUS2-29:03
860Silvia RueggerCAN2-29:09
9227Laura FogliITA2-29:28
10100Tuija ToivonenFIN2-32:07
11176Joyce SmithGBR2-32:48
12230Alba MilanaITA2-33:01
1388Dorthe RasmussenDEN2-33:40
14171Sarah RowellGBR2-34:08
1594Sinikka KeskitaloFIN2-35:15
16138Charlotte TeskeFRG2-35:56
1750Anne Marie MaloneCAN2-36:33
18330Midde HamrinSWE2-36:41
19257Nanae SasakiJPN2-37:04
20231Paola MoroITA2-37:06
2132Ria Van LandeghemBEL2-37:11
22199Carla BeurskensNED2-37:51
23214Regina JoyceIRL2-37:57
2429Marie-Christine DeurbroeckBEL2-38:01
25275María TrujilloMEX2-38:50
26287Bente MoeNOR2-40:52
27293Mary O'ConnorNZL2-41:22
28215Carey MayIRL2-41:27
2930Francine PeetersBEL2-42:22
30223Zehava ShmueliISR2-42:27
31198Winnie NgHKG2-42:38
3272Mónica RegonesiCHI2-44:44
33309Naydí NazarioPUR2-45:49
34197Yuko GordonHKG2-46:12
35295Ena GuevaraPER2-46:50
36367Julie BrownUSA2-47:33
37323Gaby Andersen-SchiessSUI2-48:42
38299Rita BorralhoPOR2-50:58
39301Conceição FerreiraPOR2-50:58
40273María CárdenasMEX2-51:03
41274María Luisa RonquilloMEX2-51:04
4234Nelly ChávezBOL2-51:35
43263Mary WagakiKEN2-52:00
4437Eleonora de MendonçaBRA2-52:19
AC280Ifeoma MbanugoNGRDNF
AC290Anne AudainNZLDNF
AC45Jacqueline GareauCANDNF
AC410Leda DíazHONDNF
AC386Julie IsphordingUSADNF
AC254Akemi MasudaJPNDNF