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Cierpinski enters marathon hall of fame

Cierpinski

03/08/1980

When Waldemar Cierpinski won the marathon gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, it was one of the biggest shocks the event had ever seen.

The red-hot favourite had been Frank Shorter, the defending champion, but the East German Cierpinski emerged from the pack to record his first major international success.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Cierpinski, because he had had to run a marathon nine weeks before Montreal to finally convince selectors that he was worthy of his place on the plane.

Like many world class distance runners, the circumstances of his childhood played a major part in his progress.

Similar to Haile Gebrselassie, he needed to run six kilometres every day to get to and from school, and consequently built up terrific aerobic reserves.

In his teenage years he trained as part of East Germany’s supremely disciplined regime, and was recording world class times by his late teens.

He had run only two career marathons a year before his Montreal gold medal, but once he crashed onto the international scene by defeating Shorter, his training regime became even more intense.

By the time Moscow came around he was among the favourites, and did not look flustered in the early stages when the Mexican Rodolfo Gomez surged into the lead.

Dutchman Gerhardus Nijboer briefly seized the lead two thirds of the way through the race before Cierpinski claimed an advantage he would never let go.

He went on to win in a relatively slow time of two hours 11.03 seconds, but it was enough to see him enter the record books alongside Ethiopian great Abebe Bikila as a back-to-back Olympic marathon champion.

He was denied the chance of a hat-trick when the Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Discover the best photos of Moscow 1980

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    The final torchbearer, basketballer Sergei Belov, in the Moscow Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony

    ©IOC

  • Relay Moscow 1980

    A torchbearer during the Moscow 1980 Games Torch relay

    ©IOC

  • Aleksandr Dityatin (URS)

    Aleksandr Dityatin on the rings at the Moscow 1980 Games

    ©IOC

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The reverse of this medal is very different from its obverse. However, it is not the work of the same artist. While the obverse was a creation by Giuseppe Cassioli, the reverse was designed by Ilya Postol, a young Soviet sculptor. We can see several elements that stand out through their stylisation: an Olympic cauldron, an athletics track in the background and the official logo of the Moscow Games on the top right ©CIO

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The obverse comprises a design by Tuscan artist Giuseppe Cassioli. This motif can be found on the obverse of all the winner’s medals presented at the Summer Games since 1928 with the exception of three special cases: Barcelona'92, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. An inscription, in Cyrillic, allows us to make the link with the Moscow Games. This is its transcription in the Latin alphabet and its translation: “Igry XXII Olympiady Moskva 1980” / “Games of the XXII Olympiad, Moscow 1980”©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    View of the delegations standing in front of the Misha mascot created by the public holding up boards

    ©IOC

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