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Monday, August 14, 2006

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

Sixth in a continuing series.

#10. Joaquim Cruz, Brazil
#9. Mel Sheppard, USA
#8. Alberto Juantorena, Cuba
#7. Ted Meredith, USA
#6. John Woodruff, USA

#5. Douglas Lowe, United Kingdom
Born August 7, 1902, Manchester, Lancashire
Died March 30, 1981, Cranbrook, Kent

The 800 meters is unusual in Olympic track & field in the number of men who have successfully defended their title--three, as many as in any other track event. Lowe is one of these three men.

His career was perfectly timed for such a feat, reaching his first peak in the summer of 1924 and extending to 1928. His two Olympic victories are often mentioned in connection to who was not there as much as who was.

In 1924, Lowe was not considered a threat to win as Henry Stallard had beaten Lowe in the British AAA Championships. Various sources say Stallard was injured at the Olympics, but British track historian Mel Watman makes no mention of that in his Olympic Track & Field History as he describes poor pace judgement by Stallard and a great race by Lowe.

Four years later it was a much greater foe who was not in attendance. Dr. Otto Peltzer of Germany had defeated Lowe at the 1926 AAA Championships in world record time, but was ill when the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics came around. The British team wrote a letter to Peltzer expressing regret and saying that his misfortune was theirs as well; the letter was written and signed by Lowe. In his absence Lowe won with relative ease. Three weeks later Lowe handily defeated Peltzer in Berlin. Peltzer was actually denied an Olympic opportunity twice; Germany was banned from the 1920 and 1924 Olympics as a result of World War I.

After his retirement from athletics Lowe began a distinguished legal career. While he was part of the 1924 British Olympic team profiled in Chariots of Fire, his character does not appear in the film. He died just 17 days after the film's 1981 release.

Year Rank Mark Meets, Etc
1923 -- 1:55.9 2)AAA
1924 1 1:52.4 2)AAA, 1)Oly Gms
1925 1 1:52.7
1926 2 1:51.4*e 2)AAA
1927 1 1:53.1 1)AAA
1928 1 1:51.2 1)Oly Gms; undefeated (6 meets)

* = 880y time less 0.7 seconds
e = estimated time

Links: Wikipedia

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