The men's 800m is classified as a middle-distance race, and has been a staple men's event at the Olympics since the Athens 1896. A women's event was introduced once in 1928, but was then dropped as some press reports claimed that it was too long a distance for women and caused distress among the athletes (although many competitors and spectators refuted these claims); the women's event was re-introduced in 1960 and has been a permanent fixture since. Unlike shorter races, competitors in the 800m are allowed to converge in the inside lane once they pass the first band (after the first 100 meters); for this reason, the 800m is seen as a more tactical race that requires a balance of both aerobic and anaerobic ability, in contrast to the sprints across the shorter distances.
The Olympic and world record for men (100.91 seconds) was set in London in 2012 by David Rudesha of Kenya, while the women's Olympic record (113.43 seconds) was set by the Soviet Union's Nadezhda Olizarenko in 1980, and the women's world record (113.28 seconds) was set by Czechoslovakia's Jarmila Kratochvílová in 1983. The women's records are two of the longest standing athletics records ever. Four men have won back-to-back gold medals (most recently by Rudesha in 2016), and South Africa's Caster Semenya became the first woman to do so in 2016 (although new IOC laws regarding natural testosterone levels prevented Semenya from returning defending her title in the 2020 Games). Cuban runner Alberto Juantorena (in 1976) is the only athlete to have won both the 400m and 800m events, although a number of 800m athletes have also taken the gold in the 1500m event, particularly in earlier tournaments.
This data was collected using the official Olympic.org site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).
The winning athletes (male listed first) and their represented countries are as follows:
1896 - Edwin Flack (Australia)
1900 - Alfred Tysoe (Great Britain)
1904 - James Lightbody (U.S.)
1908 - Melvin Sheppard (U.S.)
1912 - James Edwin Merideth (U.S.)
1920 - Albert Hill (Great Britain)
1924 - Douglas Lowe (Great Britain)
1928 - Douglas Lowe (Great Britain) & Lina Radke (Germany)
1932 - Thomas Hampson (Great Britain)
1936 - John Woodruff (U.S.)
1948 - Mal Whitfield (U.S.)
1952 - Mal Whitfield (U.S.)
1956 - Thomas Courtney (U.S.)
1960 - Peter Snell (New Zealand) & Lyudmila Shevtsova (USSR)
1964 - Peter Snell (New Zealand) & Ann Packer (Great Britain)
1968 - Ralph Doubell (Australia) & Madeline Manning (U.S.)
1972 - David James Wottle (U.S.) & Hildegard Flack (West Germany)
1976 - Alberto Juantorena (Cuba) & Tatiana Kazankina (USSR)
1980 - Steve Ovett (Great Britain) & Nadezhda Olizarenko (USSR)
1984 - Joaquim Cruz (Brazil) & Doina Melinte (Romania)
1988 - Paul Ereng (Kenya) & Sigrun Wodars (East Germany)
1992 - William Tanui (Kenya) & Ellen Van Langen (Netherlands)
1996 - Vebjorn Rodal (Norway) & Svetlana Masterkova (Russia)
2000 - Nils Schumann (Germany) & Maria Mutola (Mozambique)
2004 - Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia) & Kelly Holmes (Great Britain)
2008 - Wilfred Bungei (Kenya) & Pamela Jelimo (Kenya)
2012 - David Lekuta Rudesha (Kenya) & Caster Semenya (South Africa)
2016 - David Lekuta Rudesha (Kenya) & Caster Semenya (South Africa)
2020 - Emmanuel Kipkuiri Korir (Kenya) & Athing Mu (U.S)
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olympic.org, & The Guardian. (August 5, 2021). Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 800 meters at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2020 (in seconds) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 05, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1098302/olympics-800m-gold-medal-times-since-1896/
olympic.org, und The Guardian. "Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 800 meters at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2020 (in seconds)." Chart. August 5, 2021. Statista. Accessed October 05, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1098302/olympics-800m-gold-medal-times-since-1896/
olympic.org, The Guardian. (2021). Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 800 meters at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2020 (in seconds). Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: October 05, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1098302/olympics-800m-gold-medal-times-since-1896/
olympic.org, and The Guardian. "Gold Medal Winning times in The Men's and Women's 800 Meters at The Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2020 (in Seconds)." Statista, Statista Inc., 5 Aug 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1098302/olympics-800m-gold-medal-times-since-1896/
olympic.org & The Guardian, Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 800 meters at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2020 (in seconds) Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1098302/olympics-800m-gold-medal-times-since-1896/ (last visited October 05, 2022)