Athletics at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men's 800 metres

The men's 800 metres made its fourth Olympic appearance at the 1908 Summer Olympics. The competition was held on July 20, 1908, and on July 21, 1908. The races were held on a track of 536.45 metres=​13 mile in circumference. It was run in two rounds, with the winners of the eight heats of the first round competing in the final.

Men's 800 metres
at the Games of the IV Olympiad
VenueWhite City Stadium
DatesJuly 20 (semifinals)
July 21 (final)
Competitors38 from 11 nations
Winning time1:52.8 WR
1st place, gold medalist(s) Mel Sheppard  United States
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Emilio Lunghi  Italy
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Hanns Braun  Germany
← 1904
1912 →

38 runners from eleven nations competed. NOCs could enter up to 12 athletes.[1] The event was won by Mel Sheppard of the United States, the nation's second consecutive title in the 800 metres. Sheppard also completed the middle distance double, having won gold in the 1500 metres earlier. Italy (Emilio Lunghi's silver) and Germany (Hanns Braun's bronze) each won their first medal in the 800 metres.


This was the fourth appearance of the event, which is one of 12 athletics events to have been held at every Summer Olympics. Defending champion Jim Lightbody of the United States was the only runner from 1904 to return. His countryman Mel Sheppard was the favorite, however, having won the 1906–1908 AAU championships and the U.S. Eastern Olympic trial.[2]

Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden appeared in the event for the first time, as did the combined Australasia team (though Australia had previously competed—winning gold—in 1896). Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, and the United States each made their third appearance, tied for the most among all nations.

Competition formatEdit

After a single-round competition in 1904, the 1908 event returned to the two-round format used in 1896 and 1900. There were eight semifinals with between 3 and 6 athletes each; only the top runner in each heat advanced to the eight-man final.[2][3]


These were the standing world and Olympic records (in minutes) prior to the 1908 Summer Olympics.

World record   Charles Kilpatrick (USA) 1:53.4 (y)(u) New York City, United States 21 September 1895
Olympic record   Jim Lightbody (USA) 1:56.0(*) St. Louis, United States 1 September 1904

(*) This track was 536.45 metres=​13 mile in circumference.

In the final Mel Sheppard set a new Olympic and a new unofficial world record, his time of 1:52.8 being 3.2 seconds faster than the pace set by fellow American runner Jim Lightbody four years earlier.


Date Time Round
Monday, 20 July 1908 15:30 Semifinals
Tuesday, 21 July 1908 17:00 Final



The semifinals were held on July 20, 1908. The winner of each heat advanced to the final the next day, with all other runners eliminated.

Semifinal 1Edit

Ashford went out fast, but tired quickly. The race was a tight match between Bodor, Butterfield, and Björn, each of whom led at times. Lightbody, the defending champion, was always close behind.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Ödön Bodor   Hungary 1:58.6 Q
2 George Butterfield   Great Britain 1:58.9
3 Evert Björn   Sweden Unknown
4 James Lightbody   United States Unknown
Frederick Ashford   Great Britain DNF
Henk van der Wal   Netherlands DNF

Semifinal 2Edit

The second heat was less eventful than the preceding one, with Sheppard leading most of the way; Lintott closed quickly but was four yards behind at the finish.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Mel Sheppard   United States 1:58.0 Q
2 James Lintott   Great Britain 1:58.8
3 R. Irving Parkes   Canada Unknown

Semifinal 3Edit

Halstead took the lead after 500 metres and held on to beat Lee by two yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 John Halstead   United States 2:01.4 Q
2 John W. Lee   Great Britain 2:01.7
3 George Morphy   Great Britain Unknown
4 József Nagy   Hungary Unknown

Semifinal 4Edit

Lunghi broke away from the pack near the end of the first lap, leading the rest of the way.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Emilio Lunghi   Italy 1:57.2 Q
2 Harry Coe   United States 1:58.0
3 Lloyd Jones   United States Unknown
Stefanos Dimitrios   Greece DNF
L. J. Manogue   Great Britain DNF

Semifinal 5Edit

The fifth heat was the closest of the first round, despite Beard leading the entire way. Buddo and Astley both made tremendous efforts to catch up in the second lap. Astley caught and passed Buddo, but was unable to do the same with Beard, who won by a foot.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Clarke Beard   United States 1:59.8 Q
2 Arthur Astley   Great Britain 1:59.9
3 Donald Buddo   Canada Unknown
4 Oskar Quarg   Germany 2:10.0
Edward Dahl   Sweden DNF
Charles M. French   United States DNF

Semifinal 6Edit

Just won by fifty yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Theodore Just   Great Britain 1:57.8 Q
2 Andreas Breynck   Germany 2:06.0
Frank Danielson   Sweden DNF
Arie Vosbergen   Netherlands DNF

Semifinal 7Edit

Bromilow led for most of the race, but Braun used the last turn to move from third to first.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Hanns Braun   Germany 1:58.0 Q
2 Joseph Bromilow   United States 1:58.3
3 Harold Holding   Great Britain 1:58.5
Bram Evers   Netherlands DNF
Horace Ramey   United States DNF
Fredrik Svanström   Finland DNF

Semifinal 8Edit

While not having quite the dominant lead that his countryman Just had in the sixth heat, Crawford won by fifteen yards.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
1 Ivo Fairbairn-Crawford   Great Britain 1:57.8 Q
2 Kristian Hellström   Sweden 2:00.0
3 Harvey Sutton   Australasia 2:00.0
4 Francis Sheehan   United States Unknown


The final was held on July 21, 1908. Crawford started out fast, leading by fifteen yards halfway through the first lap, but at the end of the lap, he collapsed on the track from exhaustion. Sheppard then took the lead, with Lunghi and Just immediately behind. The time at the 400 metres mark was only 53 seconds. Just could not keep up the pace, fading back to fifth place. Lunghi's efforts were not enough for him to stay with Sheppard the entire way, and Sheppard won by 11 yards; the first four finishers broke Jim Lightbody's Olympic record of four years earlier.

Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
  Mel Sheppard   United States 1:52.8 WR
  Emilio Lunghi   Italy 1:54.2
  Hanns Braun   Germany 1:55.2
4 Ödön Bodor   Hungary 1:55.4
5 Theodore Just   Great Britain 1:56.4
6 John Halstead   United States Unknown
Clarke Beard   United States DNF
Ivo Fairbairn-Crawford   Great Britain DNF


  1. ^ Official report, p. 32.
  2. ^ a b "800 metres, Men". Olympedia. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  3. ^ Official Report, pp. 57–58.
  • 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 25 July 2006.
  • Wudarski, Pawel (1999). "Wyniki Igrzysk Olimpijskich" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2006.