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Athletics at the 1906 Athina Summer Games:

Men's 1,500 metres Walk

Athletics at the 1906 Summer Games:

Events:
Phases:

Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Panathenaic Stadium, Athina
Date Started: April 30, 1906
Date Finished: April 30, 1906
Format: Final only.

Gold: USA George Bonhag
Silver: CAN Don Linden
Bronze: GRE Konstantinos Spetsiotis

Summary

George Bonhag was extremely disappointed over his poor showings in the 1,500 metre and the 5-mile runs. He had never competed before in a walking event but decided to enter at the last minute, hoping to atone for his poor efforts. Just before the race, Don Linden, a Canadian who knew Bonhag, gave him some pointers concerning walking technique.

Linden later rued his magnanimity. He discussed it in the book, Canada at the Olympics, "Bonhag, an American runner, had been defeated in his 5-mile race, so he looked around for some other event that might restore his prestige. He had never competed in a walking race in his life; but he approached me and said he was thinking of entering the 1,500-metre walk, and asked for some advice. I knew it had taken me many years to become a champion, and I didn't consider a newcomer would be a dangerous rival. So half-jocularly and half-seriously, I told him what shoes to wear, how to stride, what the rules were; and I really encouraged him to enter.

"As I now recall, there were 9 competitors, and the eager Bonhag went out in front, right from the starter's gun. I trailed him a couple of yards where I could watch him closely and we were soon well ahead of the others. However, it didn't take me long to learn that Bonhag was so determined to stay ahead that he began skipping, which is a form of running. I also noticed that the judges, most of whom were as green as Bonhag, were pointing to the American's feet and shaking their heads. Bonhag continued walking so illegally that no honest walker could ever have caught him; and he finished ahead of me by a couple of yards.

"That race was walked on Monday, and later I was told that the judges had conferred and had agreed that Bonhag had broken the rules; so, they had ordered a re-walk to be held between Bonhag and myself at 9:30 Wednesday morning. At that hour, I was on the track and ready; and so was the Crown Prince of Greece, who was one of the judges. But Bonhag never appeared and neither did he give an explanation; no re-walk was held, and the original result went into the records."

The first walkers to reach the finish line were Robert Wilkinson (GBR) and Eugen Spiegler (AUT) but they were disqualified for running. And Linden was not the only one who considered Bonhag to have deserved a similar fate. James Connolly, the American jumper, later wrote, that "since [James] Sullivan was chief judge of that event, it would be safe to skip the corners," and he noted, "The American officials gave the race to Bonhag." Bonhag nearly was disqualified also, as two of the four judges ruled his form illegal, but the president of the jury, Prince George, cast the tie-breaking vote in Bonhag's favor.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal T
1 George Bonhag 24 United States USA Gold 7:12.6
2 Don Linden 28 Canada CAN Silver 7:19.8
3 Konstantinos Spetsiotis Greece GRE Bronze 7:22.0
4 Georgios Saridakis Greece GRE
5 Kharilaos Vasilakos Greece GRE
6 Alexandros Kouris Greece GRE
7 György Sztantics 27 Hungary HUN
AC Robert Wilkinson Great Britain GBR DQ
AC Eugen Spiegler Austria AUT DQ