90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, August 9, 2012

Remembering A Surprise Olympic Winner From 1972

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LHid-nC45k

The Olympics in London have been incredible and as they wind down I’m thinking about a race that not only changed the life of the man who ran it but also mine. The summer games of 1972 were held in Munich, which was then part of West Germany, and a 22-year-old American runner from Bowling Green State came from nowhere to win the 800-meter final.

No one expected Dave Wottle to win that race, which he did by less than a second. He wore a golf cap when he ran because he had long hair and wanted to keep it out of his eyes. And besides that thrilling finish, he might be even more famous for forgetting to take his cap off when the National Anthem was played during the medals ceremony. After the Olympics Wottle went back to college at Bowling Green State and later coached college track. Today he’s 62 and works in enrollment management at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

“There’s usually something that happens during the day every day that will remind me of that Olympic moment,” Wottle told WLBT-TV in Jackson. “I mean it’s really that memorable to an Olympic athlete. It really changes your life to be able to experience something like that, and especially to be able to win.”

It changed my life too. I was a teenager and watching Dave Wottle’s sprint down the stretch of that race sent me out the door for my first run around my neighborhood. It inspired an interest in the sport that continues today as I am glued to Olympic track and field in London. But those same Olympic games 40 years ago took a tragic turn three days after Wottles’ win, when Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village. In the end, 11 Israeli athletes were killed.

The Munich games were suspended for one day for a memorial service but then the competition continued. Kenny More was an American marathon runner at the 1972 Olympics. His roommate was Frank Shorter. Moore told me he remembers Shorter’s eloquence during the debate about whether or not they should run, because at least one runner Moore knew went home without competing. “Frank said we have to spread the word by performance that barbarism only makes Olympians stronger,” said Moore. “We have to say this is as scared as I get and let’s go run.”

They did run on September 10th 1972. Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon, an event that is credited with launching the running boom in the US, even though Dave Wottle launched my personal running boom. Kenny Moore finished 4th in that race, just missing a medal.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 29 6 Comments

Michigan Coach Faces Criticism For Keeping QB In Play

University of Michigan quarterback Shane Morris was having trouble standing on his own after a major sack. The coach kept him in the game.

September 29 26 Comments

Methodist Pastor Faces Last Church Trial

Reverend Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked for officiating his son's same-sex marriage and later reinstated, awaits one more church trial. He writes about the experience in a new memoir.

September 29 7 Comments

Monarch Butterflies Could Be On Rebound

After precipitous declines in the monarch butterfly population, there are signs the species may be on the rebound.

September 26 4 Comments

Dean Of Boston Sports Journalism Celebrates 42 Years On The Job

Here & Now's Robin Young visits the most-beloved sportscaster you've never heard of: Jonny Miller.