October is the 48th anniversary of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. You’ve probably seen the highlights on Facebook.
Those Games will be best remembered by the Tommie Smith & John Carlos protest, but other track fans will remember sub 10 for 100m, sub 20 for 200m, and sub 44 for 400m. And let’s not forget the 8.90 (29′ 2.5″) Long jump by Bob Beamon. And, Richard Fosbury high jumping with his back to the bar in “only” 2.24m (7′ 4″)! (There are much more events to highlight)
— Olympics (@Olympics) October 14, 2016
400 meters, Then and Now
Not taking away anything from recent 400m greats, but today’s 400m has:
- only 3 rounds, not 4 rounds
- sometimes, there is a rest day between Semi Finals & Finals, as seen in 2015 World Championships
- 400m individual event is early in the 9 day program, with the 4×400 relays at the end of the program, and usually the very last event
- You can name 6 members to the relay team, so in 2 rounds, you can save 2 fresh runners to only run the Finals (assuming you make the final! There are no guarantees, especially with the DQs as seen in Rio! 2016)
6 Races in 5 days… Whoa!
Here is a recap of the 1968 Olympics, which had an American sweep and having 2 World records (400 and 4×400)
- Oct 16 AM 400m Heats (Lee Evans 45.3, Larry James 45.8, Ron Freeman 45.6)
- Oct 16 PM 400m QF (Lee Evans 45.5, Larry James 45.7, Ron Freeman 45.3)
- Oct 17 400m SF (Lee Evans 44.8 OR, Larry James 44.9, Ron Freeman 45.4)
- Oct 18 400 Finals (Lee Evans 43.86 WR, Larry James 43.97, Ron Freeman 44.41)
- Oct 19 4×400 SF 3:00.7 (Vince Matthews, Ron Freeman, Larry James, Lee Evans)
- Oct 20 4×400 Finals 2:56.1 WR (Same lineup – no substitutions, with Vince Matthews, Ron Freeman, Larry James, Lee Evans)
In fact, the USA team wanted to run 2:55! (They missed that by 0.2 seconds… go to the 3:00 mark in the video below)
So it’s fair to say there is a big different in the 400 meters, then and now.