News18 Jun 2024

1964 Olympic 5000m champion Schul dies


Bob Schul wins the Olympic 5000m title in 1964 (© Getty Images)

World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that Bob Schul, USA’s 1964 Olympic 5000m gold medallist, died on Sunday (16) at the age of 86.

As well as his Olympic success, Schul set a world best for two miles and was a US record-holder for 5000m and three miles. He remains the only US runner to have won the Olympic 5000m title and was inducted into the USATF Hall of Fame in 1991.

Schul was born in West Milton, Ohio, on 28 September 1937 and he took up running while at school. Despite his early career being impacted by an asthmatic condition, he went on to become a 4:34 high school miler and at collegiate level he ran for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

He then served in the US Air Force and was introduced to Hungarian coaching great Mihaly Igloi, who was last year honoured with a World Athletics Heritage Plaque.

He spent the next few years being coached by Igloi as part of the Los Angeles Track Club, which also featured athletes such as Laszlo Tabori, Jim Beatty, Jim Grelle and Max Truex.

Schul secured his first major medal in 1963, claiming 5000m bronze at the Pan American Games. The following year, he improved the US 5000m record by seven seconds to 13:38.0 and set a world best for two miles of 8:26.3.

His Olympic triumph came a couple of months later. Schul went into the 5000m final in Tokyo as the world leader and with a superb sprint finish he secured top spot there, too – getting gold in 13:48.8 ahead of Harald Norpoth of Germany and USA’s Bill Dellinger.

Schul had been in fifth place at the bell, with the race led by Michel Jazy of France. Schul was boxed in but found a gap with 300 metres to go. Despite racing on a rain-soaked cinder track, Schul ran 38.7 for that final 300 metres to take him to the title. He won by 0.8 seconds.

“What comes to mind is I was ready,” he told Karen Rosen during a 2019 interview for “My workouts were fantastic. Nobody else did the workouts I did.”

Reflecting on the race in Tokyo, he added: “When we were in the last lap, coming around the turn, everybody was still there – there were probably 10 people. I got boxed in. I couldn’t get out, so I kept moving to the right a little bit, every step I took, and I forced the guys to go wider. 

“Finally, I was free, but Jazy was way out there.” 

In the end, Jazy – nor any of his other competitors – could respond to Schul’s ferocious kick.

In 1965 Schul set another US record, clocking 13:10.4 for three miles, but then a knee injury took its toll.

Following his own competitive career, Schul went into coaching and continued to run in masters events.

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