Chanman's Blog

Doubling Up, Part 1

Allyson Felix taking a victory lap at the 2003 at the California High School State Meet.

Allyson Felix’s recent announcement that she will be competing in both the 200 and 400 meter events at the 2011 World Championships got me thinking about other sprint and field event athletes who have pulled off successful doubles at major competitions. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but it does include some of the first successful doubles that popped into my head. In no particular order other than to best tell a story:

Big Medal Hauls

Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympics – 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay

Any story of a successful multiple event athlete should start with Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The twenty-two year old was already the world record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 220 yards, 220 yard hurdles, and long jump. At these Olympics he sought to discredit Hitler’s “Aryan supremacy” belief by winning four events. In the span of six days, Owens would win the 100 meters (10.3 wind
, the 200 meters (20.7, world best), the long jump (26’4.75”), and run a leg on the winning 4X100 meter relay team (39.8, world record). Four events, four gold medals, and two records.

Berlin's Olympic Stadium, where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.

Carl Lewis, 1984 Olympics- 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay

Forty-eight years after Owens’ historic feat, Carl Lewis would attempt the same quadruple at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The competition was somewhat watered-down due to the eastern bloc countries boycott of the Olympics but the fact of the matter is that Lewis won gold in all four events, competing an incredible thirteen times (trials and finals events) in eight days. Lewis won the 100 meters (9.99), 200 meters (19.80), long jump (28’0”), and anchored the 4X100 meter relay to victory (37.83, world record). In order to win the four gold medals, Lewis had to be strategic about his efforts. In the long jump he took only two out of a possible six jumps, passing on his final four attempts. Many in the crowd at Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum boo’ed Lewis for this decision, but it did save his legs so he could complete the quadruple. Lewis
would go on to have other strong doubles at championship meets but the 1984 Olympics was the meet he is always remembered for.

The Los Angeles Coliseum, where Carl Lewis won 4 gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. Photo taken at the 1990 UCLA-USC dual meet, one of the final track & field meets to be held in this facility before the track was removed.

Fanny Blankers-Koen (Netherlands), 1948 Olympics – 100, 200, 80 hurdles, 4X100 relay

Jesse Owens was the first man to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games in 1936 and Fanny Blankers-Koen became the first woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games when she achieved the feat at the 1948 Olympics in London. The “Flying Dutchwoman,” as she was nicknamed, won gold medals in the 100 meters (11.9), 200 meters (24.4), 80 meter hurdles (11.2), and the 4X100 meter relay (47.5). In addition, she was the reigning world record holder in the long jump and high jump, so she quite possibly would have won six gold medals had
she chosen to compete in the long jump and high jump.

Marion Jones, 2000 Olympics – 100, 200, long jump, 4X100 relay, 4X400 relay

Marion Jones’ goal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney was to better Blankers-Koen by winning five gold medals. She came up short in her
attempt, winning three gold medals – the 100 meters (10.75), 200 meters, 21.84), and running on the winning 4X400 meter relay team (3:22.62) – and two bronze medals – the long jump (22’8.25”, less than three inches from gold) and 4X100 meter relay (42.20, 0.25 from gold). Jones performance was historical because she was the first woman to win five medals in a single Olympic Games. However, her performance at these Olympic Games would later become historical for a different reason. In 2007 she was disqualified from all five events and had to relinquish her five medals when she was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

Sprint/Middle Distance Double

Alberto Juantorena (Cuba), 1976 Olympics – 400, 800

The only sprint/middle distance double to make my list was Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Coming into the 1976 Olympics, Juantorena was known more as a 400 meter runner. Known by his nickname, “El Caballo” (the horse), he decided to go for the 400/800 double in Montreal. He set a world record when he won the 800 meters in 1:43.50. That time was over six seconds faster than his best 800 before 1976. The very next day he was back on the track running the 400 meter rounds. Three days after that he completed the double winning the 400 in 44.26, a time that was then the fastest electronic time at low altitude.

To be continued…

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