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Lowe proves Paris was no fluke

24/05/1928

When Great Britain’s Douglas Lowe won the men’s 800m gold medal at the Olympic Games in Paris, he probably was not given the credit he deserved because of an injury which hit the overwhelming favourite.

British team-mate Henry Stallard was favoured to prevail but a foot injury restricted his movements and despite leading for all but the last 100 metres of the race he fell back to fourth and allowed Lowe to take the honours.

But the sense of under-appreciation weighed heavily on Lowe four years later in Amsterdam where the level of competition had become a whole lot tougher.

German Dr Otto Pelzer, Switzerland’s Sera Martin and American Lloyd Hahn had been taking it in turns to break the world record leading up to the 1928 Games.

Pelzer had won a string of British amateur titles before Amsterdam but he was struck down by illness as the Games loomed and was eliminated in the semi-finals.

Lowe had his chance to prove 1924 was no fluke and he ran a technically perfect race in the final.

The race was run at an electrifying pace but Lowe remained on the shoulder of American Hahn throughout.

It looked like the race was set for a close, blanket finish when the Englishman produced an astonishing turn of foot as the field entered the home straight.

He put the race beyond all doubt with a stunning surge which put him around eight yards clear of second-placed Erik Bylehn of Sweden. His time of 1 minute 51.8secs was also an Olympic record.

He became the first man to retain the 800m Olympic title and later went on to enjoy a successful legal career, becoming a judge in the 1960s.

Lowe was the inspiration for one of the main characters in the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire film based on the British team’s exploits at Paris in 1924, but because he did not support the film the character’s name was amended.

Discover the best photos of Amsterdam 1928

  • The 1928 “Céleste” club

    The football team entered victoriously by Uruguay at the 1928 Games. Andrés Mazali stands third from right

    ©IOC

  • Winner’s medal Amsterdam 1928

    The reverse of the medal shows an athlete carried triumphantly in victory. This motif was used on the reverse of summer Olympic medals until 1968, when a different reverse was designed for the Munich 1972 Games

    ©IOC

  • AAANX093

    Amsterdam 1928-Italian competitors (ITA) on the boat arriving in Amsterdam.

  • XAAQA003

    Amsterdam 1928-WIDE Edvin (SWE) 3rd in 5000 m and 10000 m.

  • XAAQA007

    Amsterdam 1928-Field hockey-Count Henri DE BAILLET-LATOUR congratulating the Belgian team (BEL) 4e.

  • XAAQA001

    Amsterdam 1928-1500m-In 8th position, MARTIN Paul (SUI) 6th.

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