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Monday, July 17, 2006

All-Time Top Tens -- Men's 800 meters

Second in a continuing series.

#10: Joaquim Cruz, Brazil

#9. "Peerless" Mel Sheppard (USA)

Born September 5, 1883, Almonesson Lake, New Jersey
Died January 4, 1942, New York City

In Roberto Quercetani's book on the 800 meters, Wizards of the Middle Distances, an appendix lists his nine legends of the event. Sheppard is one of them, and his career accomplishments put him last out of those nine.

Sheppard's greatest success came at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, where he swept the 800, 1500 and the now-defunct medley relay. Those were the first Olympics that generally brought together the world's best athletes; the next best title to win back then was the AAU championships, which Sheppard did five times. In an eight-year career, Sheppard was the world's best half-miler four times and the runner-up twice.

He was a notorious front-runner. In his Olympic victory his splits were 53.0 / 59.8. Four years later he led out the first lap in 52.5 and came back in 58.5, just getting nosed out by schoolboy sensation Ted Meredith.

In later life Sheppard earned even greater fame as a lawyer, as he unsuccessfully defended the Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptman.

Year Rank Mark Meets, Etc
1906 1 1:52.9* 1)AAU, 1)Can Ch
1907 1 1:54.5* 1)AAU
1908 1 1:52.8 1)En OT, 1)Oly Gms, 1)AAU
1909 -- 1:56.4*e
1910 2 1:53.9* 2)AAU
1911 1 1:53.5* 1)AAU
1912 2 1:52.0 2)Oly Gms, 1)AAU
1913 -- 1:56.3* 3)AAU

Links: Wikipedia

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