Athletics at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men's 1500 metres

The men's 1500 metres was an Olympic event for the fourth time at the 1908 Summer Olympics. The competition was held on July 13, 1908, and on July 14, 1908.[1] The races were held on a track of 536.45 metres=​13 mile in circumference. The event was won by Mel Sheppard of the United States, the second consecutive Games an American had won the event. Sheppard, like Jim Lightbody in 1904, would also win the 800 metres for a middle-distance double.

Men's 1500 metres
at the Games of the IV Olympiad
VenueWhite City Stadium
DatesJuly 13 (semifinals)
July 14 (final)
Competitors44 from 15 nations
Winning time4:03.4 =OR
1st place, gold medalist(s) Mel Sheppard
 United States
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Harold A. Wilson
 Great Britain
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Norman Hallows
 Great Britain
← 1904
1912 →

44 runners from 15 nations competed. NOCs could enter up to 12 athletes.[2] There were eight heats of the first round, with the winners of those heats competing in the final.


This was the fourth appearance of the event, which is one of 12 athletics events to have been held at every Summer Olympics. The only runner from 1904 to return was the champion, Jim Lightbody. Unlike the previous two Games, the field included some top runners in 1908. Harold A. Wilson had broken the world record in the British Olympic trials. His countryman George Butterfield had won the AAA one-mile title through 1905–07. John Halstead, Mel Sheppard, and Lightbody were among the top American runners.[3]

Australasia, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden each made their first appearance in the event (though Australia had previously competed, in 1896). The United States made its fourth appearance, the only nation to have competed in the men's 1500 metres at each Games to that point.

Competition formatEdit

For the first time, the competition consisted of two rounds. In previous Games, there had never been more than 9 runners; now, there were 44. Eight unseeded semifinals were held, with anywhere between 3 and 9 runners in each. Only the top runner advanced. This format left many of the top runners out of the final.[3]


These were the standing world and Olympic records prior to the 1908 Summer Olympics.

World record   Harold A. Wilson (GBR) 3:59.8 (u) London, United Kingdom 30 May 1908
Olympic record   Jim Lightbody (USA) 4:05.4 St. Louis, United States 3 September 1904

In the second semifinal Mel Sheppard set a new Olympic record at 4:05.0 only to be improved in the next run by Norman Hallows, who ran 4:03.4. In the final Mel Sheppard equalized this time when he also ran 4:03.4.


Date Time Round
Monday, 13 July 1908 16:00 Semifinals
Tuesday, 14 July 1908 17:20 Final



The semifinals of the 1500 metres were the first competitions of the athletics programme held, on Monday, July 13, 1908. The fastest runner in each semifinal heat advanced to the final the next day while all other runners were eliminated.

Semifinal 1Edit

Meadows, de Fleurac, Smith, and Lightbody all had the lead during the race. Sullivan won by six yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 James Sullivan   United States 4:07.6 Q
2 James Lightbody   United States 4:08.6
3 Frederick Meadows   Canada 4:12.2
4 Francis Knott   Great Britain Unknown
5 Joseph M. Smith   Great Britain Unknown
6 Louis de Fleurac   France Unknown
7 Nils Dahl   Norway Unknown
8 Ödön Bodor   Hungary Unknown
9 Jacques Keyser   Netherlands Unknown

Semifinal 2Edit

Butterfield and Lee were ahead of Sheppard and Halstead at the bell, but the American pair proved the better runners on the straight and passed the English duo. Sheppard's time set a new Olympic record, with Halstead just behind him clocking in at the old record time.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Mel Sheppard   United States 4:05.0 Q, OR
2 John Halstead   United States 4:05.6
3 George Butterfield   Great Britain 4:11.8
4 John W. Lee   Great Britain (4:12.4)
5 Joseph Lynch   Australasia Unknown
6 Kjeld Nielsen   Denmark Unknown
7 Arno Hesse   Germany Unknown

Semifinal 3Edit

Lunghi was passed by Hallows on the last lap, who won by two yards. Both Hallows and Lunghi beat the Olympic record set by Sheppard in the previous heat; the pace caused the remaining four competitors to drop out.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Norman Hallows   Great Britain 4:03.4 Q, OR
2 Emilio Lunghi   Italy 4:03.8
Evert Björn   Sweden DNF
Massimo Cartasegna   Italy DNF
Frank Riley   United States DNF
Charles Swain   Australasia DNF

Semifinal 4Edit

McGough led for the greater part of the race, with Loney and Coe passing him late and battling to the finish. Loney won by two yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Ernest Loney   Great Britain 4:08.4 Q
2 Harry Coe   United States 4:09.2
3 John McGough   Great Britain 4:16.4
4 Stefanos Dimitrios   Greece Unknown
5 Joseph Dreher   France Unknown

Semifinal 5Edit

Raugeneau dropped out on the second lap. Tait won by fifty yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 John Tait   Canada 4:12.2 Q
2 József Nagy   Hungary 4:19.6
3 Fredrik Svanström   Finland 4:25.2
Gaston Ragueneau   France DNF

Semifinal 6Edit

Deakin won by seventy-five yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Joe Deakin   Great Britain 4:13.6 Q
2 Andreas Breynck   Germany 4:30.0
3 Arie Vosbergen   Netherlands 4:38.6

Semifinal 7Edit

Galbraith led most of the race, but was passed by Wilson, who won by 30 yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Harold A. Wilson   Great Britain 4:11.4 Q
2 Jean Bouin   France 4:17.0
3 William Galbraith   Canada 4:20.2

Semifinal 8Edit

Braun, Dahl, and Crawford were the clear frontrunners for the entire race. Crawford pulled in front late, and won by four yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Ivo Fairbairn-Crawford   Great Britain 4:09.2 Q
2 Edward Dahl   Sweden 4:10.4
3 Hanns Braun   Germany 4:18.2
4 Oscar Larsen   Norway Unknown
5 François Delloye   Belgium Unknown
6 Axel Andersson   Sweden Unknown
7 James Fitzgerald   Canada Unknown


The start of the final.
Mel Sheppard winning the final.

The final was held on Tuesday, July 14, 1908. Crawford went out fast, leading for the first 500 metres before tiring badly. Wilson, Hallows, and Sheppard led out going into the final straight, but Sheppard's late burst powered him to the front. He won by about 2 yards and equalled the Olympic record that Hallows had set in the first round.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
  Mel Sheppard   United States 4:03.4 =OR
  Harold A. Wilson   Great Britain 4:03.6
  Norman Hallows   Great Britain 4:04.0
4 John Tait   Canada 4:06.8
5 Ivo Fairbairn-Crawford   Great Britain 4:07.6
6 Joe Deakin   Great Britain 4:07.9
Ernest Loney   Great Britain DNF
James Sullivan   United States DNF


  1. ^ "Athletics at the 1908 London Games: Men's 1500 metres". Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  2. ^ Official report, p. 32.
  3. ^ a b "1500 metres, Men". Olympedia. Retrieved 11 August 2020.


  • Cook, Theodore Andrea (1908). The Fourth Olympiad, Being the Official Report. London: British Olympic Association.
  • De Wael, Herman (2001). "Athletics 1908". Herman's Full Olympians. Retrieved 30 July 2006.
  • Wudarski, Pawel (1999). "Wyniki Igrzysk Olimpijskich" (in Polish). Retrieved 30 July 2006.