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Elliott v Jazy v Roszavolgyi (1,500, 1960)

Elliott v Jazy v Rozsavolgyi

1,500, Olympic Games 1960, Rome

Great Races # 13


This race had a clear favorite: Australian Herb Elliott. His stunning Mile and 1,500 WRs in 1958 had shocked the world. The only concern was his lack of top-class competition immediately before the Games. Still, there were some other good runners in the field. Dan Waern of Sweden and Rozsavolgyi of Hungary were the pick from Europe. And France had two promising finalists in Michel Bernard and Michel Jazy. Two other potential medalists, Merv Lincoln of Australia and Siegfried Valentin of East Germany, were eliminated in the heats. 

Bernard leads from Waern and Vamos. Elliott lies fifth,
closely followed by Jazy and Rozsavolgyi.

Elliott’s well-known race strategy was to go early, so the chances of a highly tactical race were low. But the early parts of the race needed a self-sacrificing pacemaker if it wasn’t to be a dawdle. Then it was just a question of whether anyone could hang on to Elliott and challenge him in the last 100. Fortunately for Elliott, a perfect pace-maker emerged in Michel Bernard, a 1,500/5,000 runner  who went straight to the front and led the field through the first 800. His pace was perfect for a WR: 28.3, 58.2, 1:27.4, 1:57.8.

Elliott, who had started comfortably, gradually moved though the field and was third at 800. At this point he made his move—much earlier than expected. He upped the pace with a 13.2 100 meters (the race had averaged 14.7 until then). The field went with him. After running the bend and the straight to the bell almost as fast, he took off again, running the 100 meters of the curve in 14.0. His third lap had taken a stunning 56.0. This last 100 had finally broken up the field. At 1200 (2:54) he was 3 meters up on Rozsavolgyi, 5 on Jazy, 8 on Vamos, and 13 on Bernard and American Burleson. 

Elliott has made his move. Rozsavolgyi and Jazy chase.

With 300 to go, Elliott went even faster with a 13.2 100 meters. Behind him Jazy moved by Rozsavolgyi but was now 8 meters down on the Australian. Elliott maintained his fast speed with a 13.6 100 round the final bend. This gave him a 15-meter lead as he faced the wind in the last 100. Although Elliott slowed in the run-in, his margin of victory increased  even more. He finished in a new WR of 3:35.6, beating his old mark by 0.4. He had run the last 800 in 1:52.8. Behind him Jazy held off the closing Rozsavolgyi for the silver. The experienced Dan Waern came through from seventh to fourth in the last 300 to catch the surprising Zoltan Vamos (previous PB 3:40.5) in the last meters.

It was an instinctive performance by Elliott; he was too strong, too determined and too talented for his opponents. Roger Bannister, writing for Sports Illustrated, described Elliott’s race poetically: “It was Elliott, with the hawk nose, the gaunt Viking face; Elliott of the lean body and the smooth stride; Elliott, lithe and stealthy, about as gentle as a tiger. This was a man made for this form of self-expression, the rest of the field having somehow learned it painfully and inadequately. This was running, the instinctive and unfettered expression of every potentiality.” (Sept 19, 1960) 

As Elliott powers into the final 100m.
Jazy moves past Rozsalovgyi.

Jazy ran the race of his life and obliterated his PB.  In his autobiography he wrote little about this great race, but the few words showed he was mentally prepared for the biggest race of his life: “I was wonderfully lucid. This time I didn’t let myself get boxed in. We were in one group. But I knew that sooner or later  a break would scatter us to the four winds.” (Mes Victoires, Mes Défaites, Ma Vie, p.122)  Rozsavolgyi at age 31 ran brilliantly for third. He was only a fraction of a second outside his 3:38.9 PB.  


1. Herb Elliott AUS 3:35.6 WR; 2. Michel Jazy FRA 3:38.4; 3. Istvan Rozsavolgyi HUN 3:39.2; 4. Dan Waern SWE 3:40.0; 5. Zoltan Vamos RUM 3:40.8; 6. Dyrol Burleson USA 3:40.9. 

(Note: Thanks to Track & Field News for the useful 100 splits in this race.)


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