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01 Aug 1980
Moscow 1980

Thoms breaks 63-second barrier in race against clock

Few Olympic events place the protagonists in such cold isolation as a track cycling time trial.

Man or woman and machine in a race against the clock, no other competitors in sight. Those hours and hours of intense training finally put to the test in the cauldron of Olympic competition where there is no second chance.

The absence of the Americans due to the boycott weakened the field to a degree, but otherwise the finest track cyclists convened at the Trade Unions Olympic Sports Centre, the track cycling venue at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

East Germany’s Lothar Thoms was at the peak of his game: he was one of only two riders ever to have won the 1km time-trial at the world championships four years in a row, and Moscow came right in the middle of that blistering run.

As Thoms took to the track in front of an expectant crowd, his target had been set.

Kazakhstan-born Russian cyclist Aleksandr Panfilov had set the fastest time of the final with one minute 4.845 seconds. Then all eyes were on Thoms.

The crowd hushed as the starting horn sounded and Thoms was away. Head bowed, he rode the perfect race, never losing his thundering rhythm or focus as he continually set the fastest split times.

As he crossed the line there were gasps of amazement at the time on the velodrome scoreboard: a new Olympic and world record of 1minute 2.955 seconds, and the 63-second barrier had been broken for the first time.

Such was the impact of his victory that, despite the cascade of golds won by the East Germans in Moscow that year, it was the 24-year-old from Brandenburg who claimed his country’s sports personality of the year award.

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