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Olympic running events – a look at the past (IV):

Women’s 1,500 metres

2004-07-08

Three silver medals and one bronze medal for Germany’s women runners – but the successful series ended in 1988

In seven weeks the Olympic Games in Athens will begin. Each week until then we will present one of the eleven running disciplines plus one of the hopefuls for Olympic gold. This new series, however, will look at the past – a record crowned by many medals for German athletes from both East (GDR) and West (FRG) Germany. Whilst the in the past German track and fields athletes were very successful in Olympic running events, the 2003 World Championships all but dashed Germany’s hopes for Athens.

It therefore seems all the more appropriate to remind ourselves of the great achievements and successes of German athletes; to remember their names and pay tribute to their efforts and dedication. Today, the focus will be on the women’s 1,500 metres.

In addition to our weekly running series prior to Athens 2004, we will irregularly publish an Olympic Remembrance Running Series – to celebrate the great achievements of the past and commend them to current and future athletes.

The women’s 1,500m are a relatively young Olympic discipline. Whilst the women’s 800m race had originally been introduced in Amsterdam as early as 1928 and was taken off the Olympic schedule for a long time only to be re-introduced in Rome in 1960, the first 1,500m event was not held until the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

With 6 medals - 3 of them gold – the former Soviet Union/CIS was undoubtedly the most successful nation, followed by Rumania, also 6 medals, one of them gold.

Nine times, Germany’s women finished in the group of the seven fastest runners winning 3 silver medals and one bronze medal. Sadly, this string of successes in the 1,500m races ended with the finals in 1992. As in the men’s races, the much sought-after Olympic gold remained elusive in the women’s 1,500m (in the statistics).

This does, however, not diminish the importance of what Germany’s female middle-distance runners achieved in the past.

Medal distribution and the most successful nations in the women’s 1,500m:

Germany:0 gold / 3 silver / 1 x bronze / 2 x fourth place / 1 x fifth place / 1 x sixth place / 1 x seventh place

URS/CIS: 3G / 2 S / 1 B
ALG: 2 G
ROM: 1 G / 3 S / 2 B
ITA: 1 G / - S / 1 B
RUS: 1 G
AUT: - G / - S / 1 B
CHN: - G / - S / 1 B
UKR: - G / - S / 1 B

Munich 1972 – Three German women in the final

Christa Merten (4:12.6) and Gerda Ranz (4:18.6) were knocked out in the qualifying heat.Gunhild Hoffmeister (born 6 July 1944 in Forst – coached by Friedrich Janke), who had already won the bronze medal over 800m in 1:59.2, ran a very close race with Paola Cacchi (ITA) on the finishing straight managing to claim victory only over the last few metres.
According to the German magazine "Leichtathletik", Karin Burneleit secured rank four “with the same stern determination shown earlier by Gunhild Hoffmeister.” Ellen Tittel dropped out of the race voluntarily. She had been particularly badly affected by the blood bath at the Israeli team quarters and in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Rising head and shoulders above the rest was Ludmila Bragina – "Leichtathletik": “But truly outstanding the performance of the Olympic champion. Her 4:01.4 world record ranks among the proudest world records of our time … the four-minute dream time has appeared on the horizon."

Final (9 September 1972):
1.Ludmila Bragina (URS) 4:01.4 WR – 2. Gunhild Hoffmeister 4:02.8 – 3. Paola Cacchi (ITA) – 4. Karin Burneleit 4:04.1

Montreal 1976 – Another silver medal for Gunhild Hoffmeister – three Germans in the final

The Russian Tatyana Kazankina achieved the amazing feat of first winning the 800m (on 26 July) and then, four days later, the 1,500m race. The 1972 champion, Bragina, finished only fifth in the final, while Gunhild Hoffmeister won another silver medal ahead of Ulrike Klapezynski (born on 17 November 1953 in Cottbus – SC Cottbus/ASK Vorwärts Potsdam / coached by Jürgen Bruns, Bernd Diessner).

Ellen Wellmann secured rank seven. Despite an excellent time Brigitte Kraus was knocked out in the intermediate heat.

Final (30 July 1976)
1.Tatyana Kazankina (URS) 4:05.5 – 2. Gunhild Hoffmeister 4:06.0 – 3. Ulrike Klapezynski 4:06.1 ... ... ... 7. Ellen Wellmann 4:07.9

Moscow 1980 – Christiane Wartenberg wins silver

Moscow saw just two qualifying heats and no intermediate heat. However, the three winners in the final finished in well under 4:00.0. Just like four years earlier, victory was claimed by Tatyana Kazankina, the Soviet world record holder (3:55.0).
Christiane Wartenberg (born 27 October 1956 in Prenzlau, SC Neubrandenburg/SC Chemie Halle / coached by Werner Gladrow, Bernd Lansky) improved her time to 3:57.8 and won a surprise silver medal. Nadezhda Olizarenko, Olympic champion over 800m, finished third.
Ulrike Bruns (previously Klapezynski) claimed rank five – Beate Liebich did not make it beyond the qualifying heat.

Final (1 August 1980):
1.Tatyana Kazankina (URS) 3:56.6 – 2. Christiane Wartenberg 3:57.8 – 3. Nadezhda Olizarenko (URS) 3:59.6 – 4. Gabriele Dorio (ITA) 4:00.3 – 5. Ulrike Bruns 4:00.7

Los Angeles 1984 – Roswitha Gerdes in fourth place – nearly bronze

At twenty metres to the finishing line, Roswitha Gerdes from Cologne had still been in third place, but then Maricica Puica (ROM), Olympic gold medallist over 3,000m, caught up and snatched the bronze medal from her.
Margit Klinger did not start in the qualifying heats.

Final (11 August 1984):
1. Gabriella Dorio (ITA) 4:03.25 – 2. Doina Melinte (ROM) 4:03.76 – 3. Maricica Puica (ROM) 4:04.15 – 4. Roswitha Gerdes 4:04.41

Seoul 1988 – Andrea Hahmann in sixth place

Vera Michallek came ninth in the qualifying heat at 4:10.05 and was knocked out of the competition. Andrea Hahmann entered the finishing straight in second place, but was overtaken.

Final (1 October 1988):
1.Paula Ivan (ROM) 3:53.96 OR – 2. Laimute Baikauskaite (URS) 4:00.24 – 3. Tatyana Samolenko (URS) 4:00.30 ... ... 6. Andrea Hahmann 4:00.96

Barcelona 1992 – Kiessling gives up after two rounds in qualifying heat

Ellen Kiessling from Dresden dropped out after only two rounds in the qualifying heat. There were no other female runners from Germany who would have been in a position to continue the successful tradition in the finals.

Final (8 August 1992):
1) Hassiba Boulmerka (ALG) 3:55.30 – 2. Lyudmila Rogachova (CIS) 3:56.91 – 3. Yunxia Qu (CHN) 3:57.8

Atlanta 1996 - Wuestenhagen and Kuehnemund fail in intermediate heats

Carmen Wuestenhagen finished in seventh place at 4:11.47 and Sylvia Kuehnemund in tenth place at 4:16.85 in the intermediate heat.

Final:
1. Svetlana Masterkova (RUS) 4:00.83 – 2. Gabriele Szabo (ROM) 4:01.54 – 3. Theresia Kiesl (AUT) 4:03.02

Sydney 2000

In Sydney this negative series concerning the performance of Germany’s women athletes in 1,500m races continued. Unfortunately, Germany’s track and field association, DLV, did not send any runner into the competition.

Final:1. Nouria Merah-Benida (ALG) 4:05.10 – 2. Violeta Szekely (ROM) 4:05.15 – 3. Gabriela Szabo (ROM) 4:05.27

It has been a long time since a female runner from Germany last ran in the 1,500m final in Seoul in 1988.
It would be more than unrealistic to even think of crowning this series with a gold medal – after 3 silver medals. Now it is merely hoped that a female German runner can qualify for Athens.

This makes the past successes achieved by Germany’s women runners between 1972 and 1988 all the more enjoyable and valuable.

Horst Milde

Interesting tips and supplementary information on the great Olympic history of the addressed topics may be sent to: info@berlin-marathon.com
800m women (Olympia historic I):
http://www.berlin-marathon.com/news/show/002083
1500 m men (Olympia historic II):
http://www.real-berlin-marathon.com/news/show/002108
800m men (Olympia historic III):
http://www.real-berlin-marathon.com/world/E/news/show/002129


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