This is the second of three recent posts about the late Steve Prefontaine
Prefontaine’s fourth place finish in the Munich Olympic’s 5000 meter final remains a testament to the courage and fortitude to which all distance runners aspire. His age and lack of international racing experience made him an underdog in the thirteen-man field, but to him, none of that mattered. Consistent with his aggressive approach to all his races, he knew that if he didn’t win, he would surely make the winner earn the gold medal. “Somebody may beat me,” he said back then. “But they’re going to have to bleed to do it.”
The YouTube video shows that with four laps remaining, Prefontaine took the lead and upped the pace, eventually dropping most of the other runners. With two laps to go, Lasse Viren of Finland went ahead briefly before Prefontaine reasserted his place at the front. With one lap remaining, Viren moved into first place, while Prefontaine fell back with Mohammad Gammoudi of Tunisia. Prefontaine surged in the backstretch trying to regain the lead, and once again in the final straight, going for the gold instead of perhaps saving what little he had left for the silver or bronze.
Each time his aggressive move was answered by Viren and Gammoudi. With nothing left, he staggered the final few meters, totally spent, and was nipped at the finish for the bronze by a late-charging Ian Stewart of Great Britain. Sadly, the great Steve Prefontaine, known as “Pre” by his adoring legion of fans, died before getting the chance to compete in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.