- 28 Jul 1976
- Montreal 1976
Gärderud wins steeplechase nailbiter - Athletics
Arguably the most exciting finish on the track at the 1976 Games came in the men’s 3,000m.
Sweden’s Anders Gärderud claimed the gold medal after finishing over a second ahead of his long-time rival Bronisław Malinowski of Poland, while East Germany’s Frank Baumgartl took the bronze.
Gärderud’s Olympic career had started eight years earlier in the altitude of Mexico City when the 22-year-old had failed to get past the opening round of the 800m and 1,500m.
He subsequently switched to the 3,000m steeplechase, launching a long-running rivalry with Malinowski.
Going into the 1972 Olympics Games, the Swede was one of the main favourites, but was eliminated in his heat, hampered by a cold. However, just a week later, he bounced back to set a new 3,000m steeplechase world record of eight minutes 20.8 seconds.
At the 1974 European Championships in Rome, he finished second behind the Malinowski, but a year later gained the upper hand, twice breaking the world record.
With the African countries boycotting Montreal, Gärderud’s path to gold was made slightly easier, but he still faced a strong European field.
Gärderud, Malinowski and Baumgartl were all drawn together in a strong heat, which was effectively a dress rehearsal for the medal showdown. Not surprisingly, when they lined up again for the final the trio were the main focus of attention.
Malinowski set the early pace, hoping to draw out the strong finishing speed of his two main rivals but at the bell just five yards separated the three men at the head of the field.
Gärderud took the lead on the back straight, slowly shaking off the Pole, but the diminutive Baumgartl stuck with him all the way.
As the two shortened their strides for the final hurdle, the Swede sailed clear, but Baumgartl crashed to the floor when his trailing leg clipped the barrier.
Malinowski then had to take evasive action to stay on his feet and he ran on to finish a distant second behind Gärderud, who crossed the line in a world record time of eight minutes 8.02 seconds.
Such was the calibre of the final that Malinowski – who would himself claim gold four years later in Moscow - also beat the previous world record in second while Baumgartl managed to pick himself up off the floor to win bronze.