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Wells emerges as world’s fastest man

Wells emerges as world’s fastest man

30/07/1980

The absence of the American contingent from the Olympic Games in Moscow did little to lessen the tension and air of expectancy before track and field’s blue riband event, the men’s 100m.

With the likes of Stanley Floyd and Harvey Glance being forced to watch from home in the United States, the favourites after the early rounds appeared to be Cuban Silvio Leonard, Italian floater Pietro Mennea and Pole Marian Woronin.

The fact that Scotland’s Wells was there at all was something of a minor miracle.

The powerful Scot had been subjected to a barrage of propaganda, some from the British government itself, attempting to persuade him to join the boycott.

Wells in fact said that one picture which seemed to portray the body of a dead child made his mind up to go and compete in the Soviet Union.

He went to Russia on the back of some excellent form: he had won the 200m Commonwealth Games gold in Alberta in 1978 and was the British champion over 100m and 200m.

While the likes of Mennea floated over the ground, Wells was a powerhouse sprinter. Barrel- chested and rippling with muscle, Wells possessed a raw power and an iron will which would prove formidable.

He broke the British record in the quarter-final, and his increasingly impressive performances saw him reach the final as one of the favourites.

In his way lay the mercurial Leonard, the multiple Pan-American Games champion.

The two key protagonists were unusually drawn on the inside and outside lanes for the final and with 60 metres of the race over, it was clearly a two-horse race.

Wells looked to have edged clear when he started an extraordinarily early dip for the line. Leonard seemed to strike back in the closing strides, but with both men given the same time it was Wells who won the gold on a photo finish.

He remains the last white athlete to win the men’s 100m at the Olympic Games, and was the first Briton to win gold since Harold Abrahams back at the 1924 Games in Paris.

Wells missed out by a whisker on a memorable 100-200m double when the elegant Mennea pipped him at the line in the 200m final.

A matter of days after the Games, Wells accepted an offer to run against the best America could offer and in Koblenz went some way to showing he was the world’s fastest man by beating Floyd, Glance and a young Carl Lewis.

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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