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The Historic Series on Olympic Running (VIII): Men’s 10,000m

Hans Grodotzki with the only (silver) medal for Germany since Stockholm 1912


In fourteen days 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 athletes have 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 continue with men’s 10,000m.

At the “Intermediate Games“ in Athens in 1906, the 5-mile race was still being run. Hermann Müller from Germany gave up, and the victory went to H.G. Hartley (GBR) in 26:11.8. Again in 1908 in London it was still the 5-mile race, which was won by Emil Voigt (GBR) in 25:11.2.

The series of 10,000m races at the Olympic Games was first introduced in Stockholm — and like the 5,000m, it was 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 10,000m at the Olympic Games since 1912:

This sentence appeared in the article about the 5,000m — but here the Finns took home 2 more bronze medals than in the 5,000, making a total of 15 medals.

The men from the north earned 7 gold medals, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals.
Only the Ethiopians come close to the Finns in their collection of precious medals, with 8 medals including 3 of gold.
Emil Zatopek won gold twice for Czechoslovakia, the Russians earned two gold medals, and Marocco also could bathe in the glow of two gold medals.

The names of four running personalities rule the world of the 10,000m: Paavo Nurmi (FIN), Emil Zatopek (CSR), Lasse Viren (FIN) and Haile Gbrselassie (ETH).

18 countries share the 60 medals.

Hans Grodotzki, with silver, is the only German runner with a medal.
The success list of the German 10,000m runners includes 9 finals finishes from 2nd to 9th place. Next to Hans Grodotzki, the best results for the Germans are a 5th place finish for Max Syring in 1932 in Los Angeles and Christoph Herle in 1984 in Los Angeles.

Overview of the distribution of medals of the most successful countries in the 10,000m:

Germany: 0 Gold / 1 Silver / 0 x Bronze / 2 x 5th place / 2 x 6th place / 2 x 7th place / 2 x 9th place

FIN: 7 G / 4 S / 4 B
ETH: 3 G / 1 S / 4 B
URS: 2 G / 0 S / 1 B
MAR: 2 G / 0 S / 1 B
CSR: 2 G
KEN: 1 G / 3 S / 2 B
USA: 1 G / 1 S
ITA: 1 G / 1 S
POL: 1 G
FRA: 0 G / 3 S
GBR: 0 G / 1 S / 2 B
SWE: 0 G / 1 S / 2 B
AUS: 0 G / 1 S / 2 B
TUN: 0 G / 1 S / 1 B
HUN: 0 G / 1 S
BEL: 0 G / 1 S
POR: 0 G / 1 S

Stockholm 1912 – Only one German runner in the preliminaries

The 5000m and the 10,000m celebrated their premiere in Stockholm. It was here that the Finns began their series of victories, led by Hannes Kolehmainen who won both the 5000m and the 10,000m.
Gregor Vietz of Germany came in 11th and last in the second preliminary. As in the 5000m, he was not able to qualify for the finals.

Finals (July 8):

1. Hannes Kolehmainen (FIN) 31:20.8 (OR) – 2. Lewis Tewanima (USA) 32:06.6 – 3. Albin Steenroos (FIN) 32:21.8

Antwerp 1920 – Nurmi wins his first Olympic medal

After the first lap, Nurmi was behind the duo of Guillemot and Wilson by 20 metres and it looked like it was going to be a sensation. Nurmi began his counterattack in the final lap, and only Guillemot was able to keep up with his pace and then take over the lead. But Nurmi increased the pace again and took home his first Olympic medal.
There were no German runners competing in Antwerp.

Finals (August 20):
1. Paavo Nurmi (FIN) 31:45.8 – 2. Joseph Guillemot (FRA) 31:47.2 – 3. James Wilson (GBR) 31:50.8

Paris 1924 – no German runners – Nurmi on the sidelines

There were no preliminaries in Paris – 43 participants competed (in 1912 in Stockholm there were 30, in Antwerp 37 participants).
Nurmi was forced by his running association to watch from the sidelines. Ville Ritola set a new world record, and many experts had expected that Nurmi would not have had a chance against him.

Finals (July 6):
1. Ville Ritola (FIN) 30:23.2 (WR) – 2. Edvin Wide (SWE) 30:55.2 – 3. Eero Berg (FIN) 31:43.0

Amsterdam 1928 – Nurmi ahead of Ritola – no Germans competing

The Scandinavians dominated in Amsterdam. Among the first 9 runners were eight Scandinavians and one Brit. Nurmi picked up the pace on the last 80 metres and won with an Olympic record ahead of his fellow countryman Ritola. Ritola went on to win the 5000m.

Finals (July 29):
1. Paavo Nurmi (FIN) 30:18.8 (OR) – 2. Ville Ritola (FIN) 30:19.4 – 3. Edwin Wide (SWE) 31:00.8

Los Angeles 1932 – Max Syring fifth

In Los Angeles, the Finns, who were used to winning, for the first time found competition that could take gold from them: Janusz Kusocinski of Poland. Earlier in June he had already taken Nurmi’s world record in the 3000m with a new time of 8:18.8. In Los Angeles he led from the start and won easily ahead of the Finns.

Ekkehard zur Megede writes that Kusocinski was killed in WWII as a resistance fighter. Each year in his honour the famous Kusocinski Memorial is carried out.

Max Syring made almost a capital mistake: he started a final sprint „almost to unconsciousness“ and thought he was at the finish until the referees sent him on one final lap. He was still able to maintain a respectable 5th place finish– and in the 5000m five days later he finished in 6th place.

Finals: (July 31):
1. Janusz Kusocinski (POL) 30:11.4 (OR) – 2. Volmai Iso-Hollo (FIN) 30:12.6 – 3. Lauri Virtanen (FIN) 30:35.0 – 4. John Savidan (NZL) 31:09.0 - 5. Max Syring 31:35.0

Berlin 1936 – Three Finns ahead of Japan – Max Gebhardt 7th

While there were no German runners competing in the 5000m in Berlin, there were three runners in the 10,000. Max Gebhardt came in a respectable 7th place.

But the main roles were played by 3 tall Finns and one small man from Japan who became the favourite of the Berlin spectators. Ekkehard zur Megede wrote about Kohei Murakoso that “his early pace making was considered to be “a ’straw fire’, and they were amazed at how much toughness, energy and fighting spirit were in him. Nippon’s son made these Olympic Games an extraordinary event. The three aces from the high north of Europe saw the small man but really did not see him; one the outside they remained unmoved by this long-distance greenhorn!”

The Finish favourite was only able to break away from the man from Japan on the last lap, who had been leading up to 6000m. The Finns then shared the remaining medals.

Finals (August 2):
1. Ilmari Salminen (FIN) 30 :15.4 – 2. Arvo Askola (FIN) 30:15.6 – 3. Volmari Iso-Hollo (FIN) 30:20.2 – 4. Kohei Murakoso (JPN) 30:25.0 – 5. James Burns (GBR) 30:58.2 – 6. Juan Zabala (ARG) 31:22.0 – Max Gebhardt 31:29.6 ... 21. Walter Schönrock 32:59.0 – 22. Josef Siegers ...

London 1948 – Zatopek: Triumph of the “Steaming Locomotive“

Megede wrote about the "triumph of the steaming locomotive" in London – and he was talking about Emil Zatopek. The Finns were not prepared for Zatopek and were planning on repeating their triple victory from Berlin. But Zatopek wore out the Finish world record holder Heino with intermediate sprints until he finally gave up, as did his fellow countryman Heinström, and of the Finish long-distance gods, only Könönen survived in 9th place.
German runners were not yet readmitted to the Olympic Games.

Finals (July 30):
1. Emil Zatopek (CSR) 29:59.6 (OR) – 2. Alain Mimoun (FRA) 30:47.4 – 3. Bertil Albertson (SWE) 30:53.6

Helsinki 1952 – Emil Zatopek repeats his victory

While Herbert Schade shined with the bronze medal in the 5000m in Helsinki, there were no German participants in the 10,000m.
In Helsinki, Zatopek even managed to win not only the 5000m and the 10,000m, but also the marathon.
He was of course the favourite for the 10,000m. Alain Mimoun stayed with him up until 8000m, but then it was over for him as well, and Zatopek steamed off to victory.

Finals (July 20):br> 1. Emil Zatopek (CSR) 29:17.0 (OR) – 2. Alain Mimoun (FRA) 29:32.8 – 3. Alexander Anufrijew (URS) 29:48.2

Melbourne 1956 – Herbert Schade 9th, Konrad (13th) – Porbadnik (17th)

In Melbourne the same man won both the 5000m and the 10,000m. It was the year of the Russian Wladimir Kuz, who wore out his opponents with deadly intermediate sprints. Gordon Pirie, one of the favourites, became totally demoralised and came in 8th. Herbert Schade managed to come in ninth. He had the satisfaction of leaving Alain Mimoun back in 12th place. Walter Konrad came in 13th and Klaus Porbadnik in 17th, both without times.

Finals (November 23):
1. Wladimir Kuz (URS) 28:45.6 (OR) – 2. Jozsef Kovacs (HUN) 28:52.4 – 3. Allan Lawrence (AUS) 28:53.6 - ... ... 9. Herbert Schade 30:00.6 - ... 13. Walter Konrad (ohne Zeit) - ... 17. Klaus Porbadnik (ohne Zeit) ...

Rome 1960 - Silver for Hans Grodotzki – Hönicke (12th) and Höger (17th)

Hans Grodotzki (born 4.04.1936 in Menterode/Harz, 65 kg, 1.75m / ASK Vorwärts Berlin – Trainer Curt Eins) won the silver medal in Rome in the 5000m, and with his silver medal in the 10,000m as well, he became the most successful 10,000m runner in Germany.

It was 20°C and raining in Rome when the 32 runners took off. At 7000m there was only a quartet left at the front, including Grodotzki, who was hoping to make gold. At 9,000m the “Blond Hans“ was in the lead, but when the last lap was rung in, Bolotnikow shot to the lead and no one could follow. Hans Grodotzki proceeded to run a new German record, however.

Finals (August 27):
1. Pjotr Bolotnikow (URS) 28:32.2 (OR) – 2. Hans Grodotzki 28:37.0 – 3. David Power (AUS) 28:38.2 – ... ... 12. Gerhard Hönicke 29:20.4 - ... ... 17. Xaver Höger 29:58.0

Tokyo 1964 – Ron Clarke with only bronze – Mills wins – Herrmann 11th

While Harald Norpoth won the silver medal in the 5000m in Tokyo behind an American, Ron Clarke only came in 9th in the 5000m. Clarke, the world record holder in the 10,000m was confident that he would win the gold in the 10,000.
The favourite from Australia was beaten, however, by almost unknown opponents--William Mills from the USA, a member of the famous Sioux Indian tribe and the Tunisian Gammoudi, who surprised the big favourite with a phenomenal sprint on the last lap. Siegfried Herrmann reached 11th place.

Finals (October 14):
1. William Mills (USA) 28:24.4 (OR) – 2. Mohammed Gammoudi (TUN) 28:24.8 - 3. Ronald Clarke (AUS) 28:25.8 - ... ... 11. Siegfried Herrmann 29:27.0 - ... ... 20. Siegfried Rothe 30:04.6 - ... ... 27. Artur Hannemann 30:56.6

Mexico 1968 – Temu wins the first gold for Kenya – Haase 15th

Ron Clarke was still – or rather again — the world record holder in the 10,000m with 27:39.6. He and Jürgen Haase, the European champion from Leipzig, were the favourites for the race. But Ron Clarke failed again – and collapsed after the finish in the high altitude in Mexico. The high altitude caused problems for Jürgen Haase as well, although he had prepared for the altitude by training in the high mountains in the Soviet Union.
Gammoudi came in third and Mamo Wolde „warmed up“ with a second place finish so he could win gold in the marathon a week later. Nabiba Naftali Temu was greeted by Keino (who had given up) at the finish as the first great champion from Kenya in the 10,000m.

Finals (October 13):
1. Naftali Temu (KEN) 29:27.4 – 2. Mamo Wolde (ETH) 29:28.0 – 3. Mohammed Gammoudi (TUN) 29:34.2 - ... ... 15. Jürgen Haase 30:24.0 - ... ... 18. Manfred Letzerich 30:48.6 - ... ... 23. Lutz Philipp 30:57.0

Munich 1972 – Mielke gave up in the preliminaries – Letzerich 13th in the 3rd preliminary

Many will still remember the 10,000m in Munich for its great dramatics. For the first time there were three preliminary races—and many famous names went down there. The defending champion Temu only came in 12th in the first preliminary, and other great names did not make it to the finals. Günter Mielke gave up in the first prelim, and Manfred Letzerich was 14th in the third prelim in 29:37.8.

The Finns continued their winning series from 1936, but with a bang. Dave Bedford led the first 1000m in 2:36.8, 1500m in 3:58.2. Bedford led to 5000m with numerous tactical variations in 13:43.88. The front runners did not even know what was going on behind them:

Between 4000 and 5000m Lasse Viren touched the inner rim and fell down, and while Gammoudi, who was in the finals for the 3rd time, stayed down, Viren jumped up and chased after the field (the Finish Sisu!) and achieved a great sensation—winning in a world record time.

The Finns had returned to their golden throne of the 10,000m with Lasse Viren’s win, which he repeated a week later in the 5000m.

Finals (September 3):
1. Lasse Viren (FIN) 27 :38.4 (WR. OR) – 2. Emiel Puttemans (BEL) 27 :39.6 – 3. Miruts Yifter (ETH) 27:41.0 – 4. Mariano Hano (ESP) 27:48.2 – 5. Frank Shorter (USA) 27:51.4 – 6. David Bedford (GBR) 28:05.4

Montreal 1976 – Lasse Viren wins again – Uhlemann in the preliminaries

There was another fall in the finals (Marc Smet) in Montreal, and while he did not come back to win, he was able to take 7th place.
Lasse Viren did not compete in the years between the Olympics. But he was in top form again at the Olympic finals. He ran near the back of the field, but when things were moving in the front he was alert and right with them. Carlos Lopes made the pace at the font and Brendan Foster fought to keep with him. “Leichtathletik“ wrote: “... the whole race was one long intermediate sprint!“
Until Lasse Viren took over.
Detlef Uhlemann was sick and not in his best form, running 28:29.28 in the preliminaries. He did not qualify for the finals.

Finals (July 26):
1. Lasse Viren (FIN) 127:40.38 – 2. Carlos Lopes (POR) 27:45.17 – 3. Brendan Foster (GBR) 27 :54.92

Moscow 1980 – Lasse Viren (5th) - Jörg Peter (6th) and Werner Schildhauer (7th)

What the Finns demonstrated with the man from Japan in Berlin in 1936, the Ethiopians tried with the Finns in Moscow. 3 Finns and 3 Ethiopians were in the finals. Two Germans, Jörg Peter and Werner Schildhauer, were also at the start.

The decision fell to the Ethiopians just 280m before the finish through Yifter, who went on to win the 5000m as well. The Finns at least managed to get silver. Lasse Viren fought hard, but he had to settle with just 5th place. Jörg Peter and Werner Schildhauer placed well in 6th and 7th place.

Finals (July 27):
1. Miruts Yifter (ETH) 27:41.7 – 2. Kaarlo Maaninka (FIN) 27:44.3 - 3. Mohammed Kedir (ETH) 27:44.7 – 4. Tolossa Kotu (ETH) 27:46.5 – 5. Lasse Viren (FIN) 27:50.5 – 6. Jörg Peter 28:05.6 – 7. Werner Schildhauer 28:11.0

Los Angeles 1984 - Christoph Herle 5th

Christoph Herle made it to the intermediate race in the 5000m, where he then gave up. In the 10,000m, however, he achieved a great 5th place. He was 6th across the finish, but the silver medal winner Martti Vainio was later disqualified for doping.

Finals (August 6):
1. Alberto Cova (ITA) 27:47.54 – 2. Mike McLeod (GBR) 28:06.22 – 3. Mike Musyoki (KEN) 28:06.46 – 4. Salvatore Antibo (ITA) 28 :06.50 – 5. Christoph Herle 28:08.21

Seoul 1988 – Hansjörg Kunze 6th

Hansjörg Kunze and Arturo Barrios put on a wild sprint on the last metres, Barrios coming out just ahead. Kunze finished with an excellent 6th place, which he was able to better in the 5000m with a bronze medal.

Finals (September 26):
1. B.M.Boutayeb (MAR) 27:21.46 (OR) – 2. Salvatore Antibo (ITA) 27:23.55 – 3. Kipkemboi Kimeli (KEN) 27:25.16 – 4. J.-L. Prianon (FRA) 27:36.43 – 5. Arturo Barrios (MEX) 27:39.32 – 6. Hansjörg Kunze 27:39.36

Barcelona 1992 – Carsten Eich and Franke in the preliminaries

There were no German runners in the finals.
Stéphane Franke came in 14th in the first preliminary in 28:52.83 and Carsten Eich 16th in the second prelim in 29:22.19.
The gold medallist, Skah, was booed out at the awards ceremony for having a fellow Moroccan who was a lap behind lead him and block out the Kenyan Chelimo.

Finals (July 31):
1. Khalid Skah (MAR) 27:46.70 – 2. Richard Chelimo (KEN) 27:47.72 – 3. Addis Abebe (ETH) 28:00.07

Atlanta 1996 – Gebrselassie Gold - Stéphane Franke 9th

In Atlanta, Haile Gebrselassie was able to crown off his great career with his first gold medal. He just beat the later world record holder from the real,- BERLIN MARATHON Paul Tergat in his sprint.
Franke came in 9th in the finals, improving his time from the preliminaries.

1. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:07.34 – 2. Paul Tergat (KEN) 27:08.17 – 3. Salah Hissou (KEN) 27 :24.67 - ... ... 9. Stéphane Franke 27:59.08

Sydney 2000 – Gebrselassie and Tergat even closer at the finish

In Sydney the final race between the Ethiopian Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat was even closer. Only 9/100th second separated the two at the finish—and the many time cross-country world champion Paul Tergat had to be satisfied with the silver medal.
While Germany at least had one runner in the 5000m in Sydney (Jirka Arndt (SCC)) who came in an impressive 8th place, there were no German runners in the 10,000m.

1. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:18.20 – 2. Paul Tergat (KEN) 27:18.29 – 3. Assefa Mezegebu (ETH) 27:19.75

All in all, with only 9 top 9 finishes in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games since 1912, the Germans results are not outstanding (not to take anything away from the achievements made, however).
At least Hans Grodotzki secured a spot in the list of medals, which from an international standpoint is not too much. One medal and the other finals finishes is the weakest result for the German men in the running events thus far reviewed.

For the future only a spark of hope remains that better times will come, which, however, in light of the super power of the African countries looks pretty much bleak.
But there is no giving up, and definitely - not in athletics.

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):
Mens 5000m (Historic Olympic Series VI):
Womenss 10.000m (Historic Olympic Series VII):

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