Still An Inspiration

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Publication Date: 8/15/2008


Dave Wottle

Although Olympian Michael Phelps is the one making history these days, it was Dave Wottle’s amazing victory in the 800 meter track and field competition that got prominent attention at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.  The unassuming Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Rhodes continues to inspire many with his gold-winning performance that Sports Illustrated cites as, “one of the most memorable kicks in track history.” Wottle came from behind, surprising skeptical coaches, fans, and competitors alike as he passed the other runners in the last 10 meters of the race.

He remains listed as one of the top inspirational Olympic stories on many Web sites, magazines, and blogs. One star-struck blogger writes of his “brush with greatness” in the lawn furniture department at Target, exclaiming, “Holy cow... that is Dave Wottle, Olympic Champion!” The blogger goes on to comment on Wottle’s technique, stating that, “He quickly goes to the back of the pack and appears to be out of the race in the first lap. Then he makes an amazing kick to win the gold in the very last meter of the race. In reality he never changed gears. He ran almost dead even splits. Everyone else went out very fast and faded. Dave stuck to his own race and it worked! On that day he was the best in the world.”

Wottle’s victory is also mentioned in several short stories, as one narrator recalls that his, “highlight was Dave Wottle, complete with golf hat and famous throttle, winning the 800 meters.”

Right before the Olympics, Wottle married his college sweetheart, Jan, despite criticism that it would ruin his career and distract him from training. The couple honeymooned at the Olympics, where Wottle modestly comments, “I had to make sure something went right on that trip and I couldn’t count on the race.” Along with his Olympic victory is his wedding anniversary. Wottle’s legacy lives on, over 35 years later.

View 1972 race on You Tube.