20 NZ Olympic Moments: No. 3, 'Come on, Jack ... He wins'

Herald sports writers Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat continue to count down New Zealand's great Olympic moments. Today, at number 3, we remember Jack Lovelock's Berlin gold.

It was a performance that impressed Mein Fuhrer, almost sent track legend Harold Abrahams into delirium and spawned a literary outpouring that continues more than 70 years after the feat.

It was Jack Lovelock winning the 1500m in Berlin, smashing the world record in the process and it was, by his own account, near perfect execution of a predetermined plan. Glen Cunningham, the American, was his biggest threat, although it was a classy field with the first five in Los Angeles four years earlier - including defending champion Luigi Beccali - all returning for another tilt at the title.

Cunningham expected Lovelock to make his move on the home straight but the Crushington-born, Timaru-schooled wisp went from the 300m mark, a brave move considering that the 1200m had been covered in 3m 05.4s, the fastest time recorded at that stage of a metric or imperial mile race. Well, it would have been a brave move except Lovelock, a man of medicine and exactitude, had spent months, if not years, honing his final sprint and testing his physical limitations. He knew that he could go from 300m and sustain his pace, even if the 10 other runners in the field didn't. From the back straight to the finish the track belonged to Lovelock and the airwaves belonged to Abrahams, the Olympic 100m champion of 1924 whose feat was immortalised in Chariots of Fire.

"Come on, Jack. My God he's done it. Jack. Come on. Lovelock wins. Five yards, six yards, He wins. He's won. Hurrah!"

Not what you'd call the most neutral commentary, but the two were chums and, anyway, Abrahams' excitement was only reflective of the vast majority of the crowd who were wowed into a frenzy by the performance and astonishing time.

"It was the most perfectly executed race of my career," Lovelock would drily note in his diary.

The enduring fascination with Lovelock is in part due to his tragic death. In 1940, he was thrown from a horse during a hunt and was unconscious for some time before he was discovered. For the rest of his life he suffered bouts of double vision and dizziness. On December 28, 1949, while standing on the southbound platform of the Church St subway station in Brooklyn, New York, he pitched forward into the path of an oncoming train and was killed.

- NZ Herald

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