Gold medal times in the 1,500m at the Summer Olympics 1896-2016

The 1,500 meter race has been a permanent fixture for men since the first modern Olympics in 1896, while the women's event has taken place since 1972. The Olympic records for men and women were set by Kenya's Noah Ngeny in 2000 (3 minutes, 32.07 seconds) and Romania's Paula Ivan in 1988 (3 minutes, 53.96 seconds); Olympic gold medalist Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco and silver medalist Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia set the world records in 1998 (3 minutes, 26 seconds) and 2015 (3 minutes, 50.07 seconds) respectively. In the past three decades, Kenyan and North African athletes have won the most gold medals across both events, however Great Britain has claimed more golds than any other nation, with six victories between 1900 and 2004. The men's event in 2016 saw the slowest finishing time since 1932; this was due to the athletes' reluctance to take the lead early in the race.

2012 Controversy

In 2012, the women's 1,500m gold and silver medals were won by two Turkish athletes; Aslı Çakır Alptekin (with a time of 4 minutes, 10.23 seconds) and Gamze Bulut (4 minutes, 10.4 seconds). Immediately after the race, British runner Lisa Dobriskey publicly accused several of her competitors of misconduct (without naming specific athletes), mirroring the sentiments of several other competitors. Subsequent investigations found that six of the top nine finishers had used performance-enhancing drugs, and in 2017 the gold medal was reassigned to Brunei's Miryam Yusuf Jamal, and the silver and bronze medals were reassigned in 2018. Alpetkin was given an eight-year ban, Bulut was banned for four years, while most of the others were banned for two years. This race has been described as "one of the dirtiest in Olympic history".

The Flying Finn

The 1,500m at the 1924 Olympics in Paris saw Finland's Paavo Nurmi, one of the most successful Olympians of all time, set a new world record of 3 minutes, 53.6 seconds; this feat was made even more impressive when Nurmi took to the field less than one hour later to compete in the 5,000m race, where he took another gold and set yet another world record. Nurmi would go on to win a further three golds in 1924, in addition to his four golds and three silvers from the 1920 and 1928 Olympics, which makes him the most successful Olympian of all time in track and field events.

Gold medal winning times in the Men's and Women's 1,500 meters at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2016

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Release date




Survey time period

1896 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official 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 - Charles Bennett (Great Britain)
1904 - James Lightbody (US)
1908 - Melvin Sheppard (US)
1912 - Arnold Jackson (Great Britain)
1920 - Albert Hill (Great Britain)
1924 - Paavo Nurmi (Finland)
1928 - Harri Larva (Finland)
1932 - Luigi Beccali (Italy)
1936 - John Lovelock (New Zealand)
1948 - Henry Eriksson (Sweden)
1952 - Joseph Barthel (Luxembourg)
1956 - Ron Delany (Ireland)
1960 - Herb Elliot (Australia)
1964 - Peter Snell (New Zealand)
1968 - Kip Keino (Kenya)
1972 - Pekka Vasala (Finland) & Lyudmila Bragina (USSR)
1976 - John George Walker (New Zealand) & Tatiana Kazankina (USSR)
1980 - Sebastian Coe (Great Britain) & Tatiana Kazankina (USSR)
1984 - Sebastian Coe (Great Britain) & Gabriella Dorio (Italy)
1988 - Peter Rono (Kenya) & Paula Ivan (Romania)
1992 - Fermin Cacho Ruiz (Spain) & Hassiba Boulmerka (Algeria)
1996 - Noureddine Morceli (Algeria) & Svetlana Masterkova (Russia)
2000 - Noah Kiprono Ngenyi (Kenya) & Nouria Merah-Benida (Algeria)
2004 - Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) & Kelly Holmes (Great Britain)
2008 - Asbel Kipruto Kiprop (Kenya) & Nancy Jebet Lagat (Kenya)
2012 - Taoufik Makhloufi (Algeria) & Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Brunei)
2016 - Matthew Centrowitz (US) & Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon (Kenya)

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