Girish Mahajan (Editor)

800 metres at the Olympics

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Sport  Athletics
Men  David Rudisha (KEN)
Gender  Men and women
800 metres at the Olympics
Years held  Men: 1896 – 2012 Women: 1928 , 1960 – 2012
Men  1:40.91 David Rudisha (2012)
Women  1:53.43 Nadezhda Olizarenko (1980)

The 800 metres at the Summer Olympics has been contested since the first edition of the multi-sport event. The men's 800 m has been present on the Olympic athletics programme since 1896. The women's event was first held in 1928, making it the first distance running event for women. However it was not held again until 1960, since when it has been a permanent fixture. It is the most prestigious 800 m race at elite level. The competition format typically has three rounds: a qualifying round, semi-final stage, and a final between eight runners.


The Olympic records are held by David Rudisha, who ran a world record of 1:40.91 minutes in 2012, and Nadezhda Olizarenko, who ran a former world record of 1:53.43 minutes in 1980. Olizarenko's mark is the joint longest-standing women's Olympic record and the joint second-longest after the men's long jump record by Bob Beamon. Her time remains the second fastest ever for the event. The 800 metres world record has been broken ten times at the Olympics; the men's record was broken in 1912, 1932, 1968, 1976 and 2012; the women's record was bettered in 1928, 1960, 1964, 1976 and 1980.

Four men have won back-to-back 800 m Olympic titles: Douglas Lowe (1924/1928), Mal Whitfield (1948/1952), Peter Snell (1960/1964), and Rudisha (2012/2016). No women have won multiple titles in the event; Maria Mutola and Kelly Holmes are the only women's gold medalists to have reached the podium on two occasions. No athlete of either sex has won more than two medals. Historically, athletes in this event have also had success in the 1500 metres at the Olympics. Holmes was the last athlete to win both events at the same Olympics in 2004, but no male athlete has reached both middle-distance podiums since Sebastian Coe in 1984.

The United States is the most successful nation, having nine gold medals and 24 medals in total. The next most successful nations are Great Britain (eight gold and 12 medals overall) and Kenya (5 golds among its 13 medals). Two nations have achieved a sweep of the medals: the United States in the men's contest in 1904 and 1912, and the Soviet Union in the 1980 women's final.

Medalists by country

  • nb The German total includes teams both competing as Germany and the Unified Team of Germany, but not East or West Germany.
  • Intercalated Games

    The 1906 Intercalated Games were held in Athens and at the time were officially recognised as part of the Olympic Games series, with the intention being to hold a games in Greece in two-year intervals between the internationally held Olympics. However, this plan never came to fruition and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later decided not to recognise these games as part of the official Olympic series. Some sports historians continue to treat the results of these games as part of the Olympic canon.

    At this event a men's 800 m was held and Paul Pilgrim, a 1904 Olympic gold medalist in the 4-mile team race, won the competition. The reigning 800 m and 1500 metres champion from the 1904 Olympics, James Lightbody, was the runner-up and Britain's Wyndham Halswelle, later the 1908 Olympic champion, was the bronze medalist.

    Non-canonical Olympic events

    In addition to the main 1900 Olympic men's 800 metres, a handicap competition with thirteen entrants was contested three days after the final. Christian Christensen of Denmark was the winner in a time of 1:52.0 minutes with a 70 m handicap. Howard Hayes and Harvey Lord, both of the United States, filled out the top three, with Hayes recording 1:53.5 mins (45 m handicap) and Lord finishing in 1:54.2 minutes (35 m handicap).

    A handicap 880-yard run (804.7 m) competition was held at 1904 Summer Olympics after the 1904 Olympic men's 800 m race. Johannes Runge of Germany won in 1:58.4 minutes with a 10-yard handicap. John Peck of Canada came second in 1:59.0 minutes with zero handicap and F. C. Roth, an American schoolboy, was third with a 15-yard headstart.

    These events are no longer considered part of the official Olympic history of the 800 metres or the athletics programme in general. Consequently, medals from these competitions have not been assigned to nations on the all-time medal tables.


    800 metres at the Olympics Wikipedia

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