Host City: Montréal, Canada
Venue(s): Olympic Pool, Montréal, Québec
Date Started: July 19, 1976
Date Finished: July 20, 1976
The three favorites were Australian [Stephen Holland], who had set a world record in the event in Sydney in February 1976; [Bobby Hackett], runner-up of the US Trials a few weeks before Montréal; and [Brian Goodell], who would later win the 400 freestyle gold and had set the world record of 15:06.66 at the US Trials. All had different plans. Hackett was known for setting a suicidal pace and trying to hold on. Holland started slowly and would usually push the middle 500 metres, and then finish with what he had. Goodell would follow the leaders, relying in his faster speed to finish and try to win. Hackett took the lead on the first lap with Holland in his wake, expecting Hackett to go out fast and collapse from the effort. But what he didn’t know was that Hackett had changed his strategy and was setting a moderate pace, one he could maintain all day. At 800 metres, Hackett led in 8:03.50, well off the pace he had set at the US Trials. Holland only realized his mistake at 950 metres and took the lead, but it was far too late for him to drop his American rivals.
Goodell caught Hackett at 1,350 metres, who still trailed Holland by a bit. But Goodell took the lead at 1,400 metres and finished strongly to win the gold comfortably. In the final 100, Hackett came back and overtook Holland for the USA to finish 1-2. Goodell finished in the world record time of 15:02.40, with Hackett and Holland also both under the world mark.