Host City: Moskva, Soviet Union
Venue(s): Swimming Pool, Olympiysky Sports Complex, Moskva
Date Started: July 21, 1980
Date Finished: July 22, 1980
In 1954 [Roger Bannister] became the first man to run one mile under four minutes. In the 1,500 freestyle the similar barrier was 15 minutes, or the equivalent of one minute per 100. Although [Brian Goodell] was close in Montréal, recording 15:02.40, that world record still stood as the Moscow Olympics opened. The clear favorite was [Vladimir Salnikov], World Champion in 1978, who would later win the 400 free in Moscow, and it was anticipated that the barrier was in trouble. He had last been defeated in the 1500 by Goodell back in September 1977, had won 21 consecutive 1500 races, had the eight fastest performances since Montréal, and been under 15:10 six times.
Salnikov opened with 58.53, followed by his second 100 in 1:00.74, which was his slowest 100 split of the race. At 1000 metres he was six seconds ahead of Goodell’s pace in his world record. Through 1100 metres he turned in 11:01.15 and the crowd began to roar, Salnikov later stating, “The public’s roar at 1100 metres really helped me. I was still flying the last 100 metres.” His next three 100s were all done in under a minute, but at 1400 he was tantalizingly outside the minute per 100 pace, going through in 14:00.22. Salnikov came home in 58.05 to break through the barrier, recording 14:58.27 for the gold medal, finishing 16 seconds clear of teammate [Aleksandr Chayev].