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The Historic Series on Olympic Running (VI): Men’s 5000m

Dieter Baumann takes gold, plus three silver and three bronze medals for Germany since 1912


In five weeks, the Olympic Games will be opening in Athens. Each week we have been and will continue introducing one of the eleven running disciplines, as well as naming the favourites for the Olympic gold medals.
This series, however, is on the history of Olympic running—about the past, rich in medals, of the German track and field athletes from both East (GDR) and West (FRG). While in the past German track and field has been very successful at the Olympic Games, following the results of the world championships in 2003, one should not expect too much in Athens. It seems even more appropriate then to remember the great achievements of the Germans in the past and to honour their performances.
This series on the history of Olympic running will follow the weekly series on running which focuses on Athens 2004 —out of respect for the great achievements and as an inspiration for imitation.

Today we will look at the men’s 5000m.
Surprisingly, the 5000m was only introduced into the Olympic programme in 1912.
In 1896 the only races were the 800m, the 1500m and the marathon. In Paris in 1900, there were three additional races: the 2500m hurdles, the 4000m hurdles (where Franz Duhne from Germany was 6th, no time), the 4000m cross-country race (where Franz Duhne also came in 6th, no time), and the 5000m team race.

In 1904 in St. Louis only the 2500m hurdles was continued, not the 4000m hurdles. The 5000m team race was transformed into a 4-mile team cross-country race. The only participants in that race, however, were two US teams from Chicago and NY, so to say, a club championship.
In 1908 in London, the only of those races remaining was the 4-mile team cross-country race. The newcomer was the 5 mile (8.047 m). The only German participant was Paul Nettelbeck (SCC Berlin), who, however, took fifth and thus last place in the preliminaries.

Emil R. Voigt (GBR), born in 1882 in Manchester, was the winner. He was the son of German parents.
1. Emil Voigt (GBR) 25:11.2 – 2. E. Owen (GBR) 25:24.0 – 3. John Svanberg (SWE) 25:37.2.

The 5000m was first integrated into the Olympic programme in 1912 in Stockholm. There were two other events there, which no longer exist: the 3000m team race – the German team of Erwin von Sigel, Georg Amberger, Gregor Vietz and Georg Mickler (gave up), which came in second in the preliminaries, did not qualify for the finals.

5000m – The distance of the Finns!
Nowadays, one only speaks of the successes of the African runners. But one country dominated the medals for the men’s 5000m at the Olympic Games since 1912: Finland: the men from the North have taken home 7 gold medals, 4 silver, and 2 bronze.
No other country even comes near them. Similar to the domination of the 800m by the USA, the Finish runners have dominated the 5000m. The only other nation within reach is Ethiopia, which boasts two gold medals.

The German runners, with a total of 7 medals, are the second most successful nation! Looking back, that is even somewhat surprising.

21 countries share the 60 medals.

Dieter Baumann, with one gold and one silver medal, is the leading figure among the German 5000m runners.

The success list of the men’s 5000m German runners includes 15 finals rankings from 1st - 10th place. In addition to Dieter Baumann, Hans Grodotzki and Harald Norpoth have fought out silver medals. Germany’s bronze medal winners are the legendary Herbert Schade, Klaus-Dieter Hildenbrand with his piked leap across the finish, and Hans-Jörg Kunze.
Friedrich Janke and Dieter Baumann also were able to shine with 4th place finishes.

Overview of the distribution of medals of the most successful countries in the 5000m:

Germany: 1 Gold / 3 Silver / 3 x Bronze / 2 x 4th place / 2 x 6th place / 2 x 8th place / 1 x 9th / 1 x 10th place
FIN: 7 G / 4 S / 2B
ETH 2 G / 1 S
KEN: 1 G / 3 S / 1B
FRA: 1 G / 2 S
USA: 1 G / 1 S / 1 B
CZE: 1 G / 1 S
NZL: 1 G / 1 S
TUN: 1 G / 1 S
MAR: 1 G / 0 S / 2 B
URS: 1 G /
BUR: 1 G /
BEL: 1 G /
GBR: 0 G / 1 S / 3 B
TAN: 0 G / 1 S
SUI: 0 G / 1 S
ALG: 0 G / 1 S
SWE:0 G / 0 S / 4 B
HOL: 0 G / 0 S / 1 B
POL: 0 G / 0 S / 1 B
POR: 0 G / 0 S / 1 B

Stockholm 1912 – Only 1 German runner in the preliminaries

The premiere of the 5000m was celebrated in Stockholm, and with it the duel of the leading runners, Hannes Kolehmainen (FIN) and Jean Bouin (FRA), who was killed in 1914 in WWI. With Kolehmainen began the leadership of the Finish runners over the long distances.
Only one German runner, Gregor Vietz, participated, starting in the 4th preliminary. He did not qualify for the finals.

Finals (July 10):
1. Hannes Kolehmainen 14:36.6 (WR) – 2. Jean Bouin (FRA) 14:36.7 – 3. George Hutson GBR 15 :07.6

Antwerp 1920 – For the first time, Paavo Nurmi

The name Paavo Nurmi appeared in Olympic competition for the first time, but there was a turn-around in Antwerp. The Frenchman Joseph Guillemot turned the tables and the victory went to France ahead of the quiet Finn, whose legendary career was just beginning.
Ekkehard zur Megede wrote about the Frenchman: “He was one of the few people whose heart on the right side“. Not only that, but the 20-year-old runner had suffered a gas poisoning during the war, which made his victory over Nurmi even more impressive.
There were no German runners participating in Antwerp.

Finals (August 17):
1. Joseph Guillemot (FRA) 14:55.6 – 2. Paavo Nurmi (FIN) 15:00.0 – 3. Eric Backman (SWE) 15:13.0

Paris 1924 – no German runners – Paavo Nurmi won four times

Paavo Nurmi won 4 gold medals in Paris. First in the 1500m – and 26 minutes later – in the 5000m – absolutely unthinkable today. Further wins were clocked up in the 10.650m cross-country race (in a hot battle in the sun in Colombes with a temperature of 36°C in the shade), and in the 3000m team race.

Finals (July 10):
1. Paavo Nurmi (FIN) 14:31.2 OR) – 2. Ville Ritola (FIN) 14:31.2 – 3. Edvin Wide (SWE) 15:01.8

Amsterdam 1928 – German runners only in the preliminaries

Nurmi ruled in Amsterdam as well. The wonder runner from Finland won the 10,000m, but in the 5000m there was a “puzzling race of the Finns”, as described by Megede.
Nurmi, the “unrivalled one” came in second behind his fellow countryman Ville Ritola. There is suspicion that the Finn’s running management had something to do with that. The German runner Otto Kohn was 5th in the third preliminary and Boltze was 7th in the second prelim.

Finals (August 3):
1. Ville Ritola (FIN) 14:38.0 – 2. Paavo Nurmi (FIN) 14:40.0 – 3. Edwin Wide (SWE) 14:41.2

Los Angeles 1932 – Max Syring sixth

The Finish rule continued in the 5000m, even though Nurmi was no longer part of the team. In 1932, Nurmi lost both of his world records for the 5000m and 10000m. The US-American Ralph Hill, who until then had only been known as a mile-runner, qualified for the 5000m at the trials. There was a dramatic finish at the 5000m finals on the last lap between the Finn Lehtinen and the American Hill (in front of a home crowd).
Lehtinen was always ahead with Hill in his wake. Both runners hindered one another on the last 100 metres. The officials gave them both the same time, but the winner was the Finn. The leading German long distance runner, Max Syring (Wittenberg), held his own, as Megede wrote, coming in 6th.

Finals: (August 5):
1. Lauri Lehtinen (FIN) 14:30.0 OR – 2. Ralph Hill (USA) 14.30.0 OR – 3. Lauri Virtanen (FIN) 14:44.0 – 4. John Savidan (NZL) 14:49.6 - 5. Jean-Gunnar Lindgren (SWE) 14:54.0 – 6. Max Syring 14:59.0

Berlin 1936 – No Germans in the long distance finals

Again there was a Finish double victory. The German runners Stadler, Karl-Heinz Becker and the famous Max Syring, who experienced a low in his form at the Olympic Games, were all eliminated in the preliminaries.
The defending champion and world record holder Lehtinen found his toughest competitors in his own fellow countrymen and in one runner from Japan, the little Kohei Murakoso, who had already taught the Finns fear in the 10,000m. But there, as well as in the 5000m, the favourite of the Berliners for his fighting spirit only came in fourth.

Finals (August 7):
1. Gunnar Höckert (FIN) 14:22.2 OR – 2. Lauri Lehtinen (FIN) 14:25.8 – 3. Henry Jonsson (SWE) 14:29.0 – 4. Kohei Murakoso (JPN) 14:30.0

London 1948 – Zatopek at the beginning of his career in the “rain battle“

Zatopek wanted the double victory in London: he had already won the 10,000m. Megede wrote that the 5000m race became one of the most dramatic events of the 1948 Olympic Games: The Rain Battle. Gaston Reiff (BEL) was Zatopek’s toughest competitor. 400m before the finish, Reiff was leading by almost 50 metres ahead of Zatopek. Reiff saved himself on the ”catastrophic“ wet track just ahead of Zatopek across the finish. The hegemony of the Finns was broken.
German runners were not yet re-admitted to participate in the Olympic Games.

Finals (August 2): 1. Gaston Reiff (BEL) 14:17.6 OR – 2. Emil Zatopek (CSR) 14.17.8 – 3. Willem Slijkhuis (NED) 14:26.8

Helsinki 1952 – Herbert Schade fought out the bronze medal

Herbert Schade (b. May 26, 1922 in Solingen, 1.79 m 65 kg) led the world rankings with a time of 14:06.6, set on June 8, 1952 in Nienburg, which was the third best time in history. He was considered by all to be the Olympic favourite.
After only one and a half laps, Schade took the lead, hoping to break far away from Zatopek, who as always fought back and kept up. Gaston Reiff, the defending champion, lost his nerve during this furious chase and gave up. Gordon Pirie, the tall Brit, could not stick with them either. On the final lap it was only Schade, Zatopek, Mimoun, the Frenchman, and Chris Chataway, the British outsider. 250m before the finish, Chataway took over the lead, Zatopek fell back at first, but before the last curve Zatopek flew by them all and won ahead of the tactician Mimoun, who was able to sprint past Schade. Chris Chataway fell in the last curve. This dramatic picture became famous around the world.

Finals (July 24):
1. Emil Zatopek (CSR) 14:06. 6 OR – 2. Alain Mimoun (FRA) 14:07.4 – 3. Herbert Schade 14:08.6 – 4. Gordon Pirie (GBR) 14:18.0 – 5. Chris Chataway (GBR) 14:18.0

Melbourne 1956 – Herbert Schade twelfth, Herbert Janke in the preliminaries

Herbert Schade reached the finals and was twelfth, reaching far beyond his abilities. Friedrich Janke came in 6th in the 3rd preliminaries in 14:40.6.
Wladimir Kuz (URS) already had won the 10,000m and upped it with a victory in the 5000m as well. The British won the rest of the medals with Gordon Pirie and Derek Ibbotson, while Chris Chataway came in 11th, just ahead of Herbert Schade.

It is interesting to note the 7th place finish: Nyandika Maiyora from Kenya in 14:19.0, the first representative of his country, which later was to rule the long distances.

Finals (November 28): 1. Wladimir Kuz (URS) 13:39.6 OR – 2. Gordon Pirie (GBR) 13:50.6 – 3. Derek Ibbotson (GBR) 13:54.4

Rome 1960 – Three German runners in the finals – Silver for Grodotzki

Hans Grodotzki (born April 4, 1936 in Menterode/Harz, 65 kg, 1.75 m / ASK Vorwärts Berlin – Trainer Curt Eins) began the series of German silver medals in Rome. The “Blond Hans“ stayed in the middle of the pack, and on the final stretch fought back against a strong sprint by the Pole Zimny. Friedrich Janke ran a strong 4th-place finish, while Hans Flosbach (Solingen) was eighth.

Finals (September 2):
1. Murray Halberg (NZL) 13:43.4 – 2. Hans Grodotzki 13:44.6 – 3. Kazimierz Zimny (POL) 13:44.8 – 4. Friedrich Janke 13:46.8 ... ... 8. Horst Flosbach 14:06.6

Tokyo 1964 – Harald Norpoth won silver – USA gold and bronze

It was a cold 13°C in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo and was raining buckets when the 5000m was started.
Harald Norpoth (Telgte), the lean long-distance runner from Preußen Münster, needed 54.5 seconds for the final 400m, while the winner, Bob Schul (USA), made his last lap in only 54 seconds, which shows the explosiveness of the race.
Michel Jazy (FRA) and Ron Clarke (AUS) went under – and a star arose: Kipchoge Keino (KEN) came in fifth in the icy cold. Earlier he had already made it to the intermediates in the 1500m.
Lutz Philipp and Manfred Letzerich both came in 8th in their preliminaries.

Finals (October 18): 1. Robert Schul (USA) 13:48.8 – 2. Harald Norpoth 13:49.6 3. William Dellinger (USA) 13:49.8 - 4. Michel Jazy (FRA) 13:49.8 – 5. Kipchoge Keino (KEN) 13:50.4

Mexico 1968 – Norpoth gave up – Africa in the top spots

Harald Norpoth was again fifth in the 5000m finals (and then later in the 1500m), but the high altitude was too much for him. In great pain, he gave up. In the preliminaries, Girke (Wolfsburg) was 11th and Dießner 6th.
Kip Keino won the 1500m and came in second in the 5000m. Naftali Temu, who had already won the gold in the 10,000m 4 days earlier, came in third.

Finals (October 17):
1. Mohamed Gammoudi (TUN) 14:05.0 – 2. Kipchoge Keino (KEN) 14:05.2 – 3. Naftali Temu (KEN) 14:06.4

Munich 1972 – Harald Norpoth sixth– Frank Eisenberg ninth

Harald Norpoth was participating in the Olympic Games for the third time and was very satisfied with this 6th-place finish. Again and again he suffered through great pain. Frank Eisenberg was ninth. Wolfgang Riesinger and Jürgen May were both 9th in their preliminaries.
The Finns returned to the golden throne of the 5000m with Lasse Viren

Finals (September 10):
1. Lasse Viren (FIN) 13:26.4 OR – 2. Mohammed Gammoudi (TUN) 13 :27.4 – 3. Ian Stewart (GBR) 13 :27.6 – 4. Steve Prefontaine (USA) 13:28.4 – 5. Emiel Puttemans (BEL) 13:30.8 - &. Harald Norpoth 13:32.6 ... ... 9. Frank Eisenberg 13:40.8

Montreal 1976 – Hildenbrand’s piked leap across the finish brought home the bronze medal

Reporting on the 5000m in Montreal, “the race ended like a middle distance race,“ according to the title of “Leichtathletik“.
There were only three seconds separating the first and seventh place, making the scene similarly dramatic to Helsinki in 1952. Lasse Viren managed to fight out his 4th gold medal. With a nerve-wracking 55-second final lap, Viren was able to win ahead of Dick Quax; with a great fight and final jump across the finish, Klaus-Peter Hildenbrand (b. 1952 in Dörrenbach/Hunsrück) won the bronze medal. Detlef Uhlemann from Bonn came in tenth.

Finals (30.Juli):
Lasse Viren (FIN) 13.34.76 – 2. Dick Quax (NZL) 13:25.16 – 3. Klaus-Peter Hildenbrand 13:25.38 – 4. Rodney Dixon (NZL) 1325:50 ... ... 10. Detlef Uhlemann 13:31.07

Moscow 1980 – Hans-Jörg Kunze made it to the intermediates – Ethiopia ahead

Two Africans took home the gold and silver, Finland the bronze. The first 1000m were run in 2:38.4, followed by strenuous fights for positioning. Hans-Jörg Kunze got stuck in the intermediates, while Markus Ryffel of Switzerland took 5th place and Dietmar Millonig of Austria 6th in the finals.

Finals (August 1):
Miruts Yifter (ETH) 13:21.0 – 2. Suleiman Nyambui (TAN) 13:21.6 - 3. Kaarlo Maaninka (FIN) 13:22.0 – 4. Eamonn Coghlan (IRL) 13:22.8 – 5. Markus Ryffel (SUI) 13:23.1 – 6. Dietmar Millonig (AUT) 13:23.3

Los Angeles 1984 - Uwe Mönkemeyer - Christoph Herle in the intermediates

The last lap was run in 55 seconds here as well. Said Aouita ran to victory in a great 13:05.59. Markus Ryffel, four years after his 5th place finish, was able to secure a shining silver medal for the ski sport nation Switzerland.

Finals (August 11):
1. Said Aouita (MAR) 13:05.59 (MAR) – 2. Markus Ryffel (SUI) 13:07.54 – 3. Anton Laitao (POR) 13:09.20 – 4. Tim Hutchings (GBR) 13:11.50

Seoul 1988 – Dieter Baumann with silver and Hans-Jörg Kunze with the bronze medal

The 23-year-old from Waiblingen, Dieter Baumann, was originally planned for the 1500m, but then allowed to run the 5000m. That was almost a golden decision. Baumann (b. Feb. 15, 1965 in Blaustein near Blaubeuren, 1.76 m, learned photo labour assistant) came to track and field at age 16 and became Germany’s most successful 5000m runner – he made his first move in that direction in Seoul, winning the silver medal.
In Melbourne in 1956, the Kenyans were still the apprentices; now they were the masters in the long distance disciplines. John Ngugi , the cross-country world champion in 1986 ran the stretch from 1000 to 2000m in an ”easy“ 2:32 and the rest of the field left him in the lead all the way to the finish. The only one to try to approach him was Castro. Baumann attempted to close the gap, with Kunze in tow, and on the final stretch both sprinted past Castro.

Finals (October 1): 1. John Ngugi (KEN) 13:11.70 – 2. Dieter Baumann 13:15.52 – 3. Hans-Jörg Kunze 13:15.73 – 4. Domingos Castro (POR) 13:16.09

Barcelona 1992 – Dieter Baumann – Gold medal with a final slalom sprint

On the final lap, Dieter Baumann was locked in between the Kenyans and Ethiopians, the “worst position for the final sprint“, wrote ”Leichtathletik“, “but luck was with him. A hole appeared and Baumann slipped through like a slalom runner” between the Africans. They did not have a chance against the “White Kenyan”.
With this triumph, Dieter Baumann became the first German to win the gold medal in the 5000m.

Finals (August 8):
1. Dieter Baumann 13:12.52 – 2. Paul Bitok (KEN) 13:12.71 – 3. Fita Bayissa (ETH) 13:13.03 – 4. Brahim Boutayeb (MAR) 13:13.27

Atlanta 1996 – Dieter Baumann comes in fourth in the finals

In Atlanta, Dieter Baumann was not able to enhance his collection of medals with a bronze, coming in a close 4th. Paul Bitok repeated his second-place finish from Barcelona; Stéphane Franke came in 14th.

Finals: 1. Venuste Niyongabo (BUR) 13:07.96 – 2. Paul Bitol (KEN) 13:08.16 – 3. Khalid Boulami (MAR) 13:08.37 – 4. Dieter Baumann 13 :08.81 ... 14. Stéphane Franke 13:44.64

Sydney 2000 – Jirka Arndt – Eighth in the finals

Jirka Arndt (SCC) was the only German participant in the 5000m in Sydney. One week before the beginning of the Olympic Games, the IAAF banned Dieter Baumann, making Arndt the sole hope for the Germans. Arndt even did some of the pace work in the finals when the Kenyans surprisingly remained passive.
The final 1000m were then run in 2:25.65. Jirka Arndt was able to keep ahead of two Kenyans, coming in eighth and the second best European.

1. Million Wolde (ETH) 13:35.49 – 2. Ali Said-Sief (ALG) 13:36.20 – 3. Brahim Lahlafi (MAR) 13:36.47 ... 8. Jirka Arndt 13:38.57

All in all, the results of the German men in the 5000m at the Olympic Games are quite respectable, and the long-distance runners can be pleased with and proud of their successes.
In the future, the first big hurdle will be qualifying for participation in the Olympic Games, then surviving the preliminaries will be the next big goal. Not a lot more is to be expected — if it should turn out otherwise, it would be an athletic wonder.

Horst Milde

Interesting tips and supplementary information on the great Olympic history of the addressed topics may be sent to:
Women’s 800m (Historic Olympic Series I):
Men’s 1500m (Historic Olympic Series II:)
Men’s 800m (Historic Olympic Series III):
Women’s 1500m (Historic Olympic Series IV):
Women’s 5000m (Historic Olympic Series V):

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