BGSU Magazine Spring 2012

40th anniversary of Dave Wottle’s Olympic Gold

Dave Wottle to speak on campus
2012-13 Setting the Pace Lecture Series
Sept. 28 @ 3 p.m. | Stroh Center
Sponsored by the College of Education and Human Development and the School of Human Movement, Sport & Leisure Studies

In his 1972 Olympic 800-meter race, Wottle’s famous kick enabled him to move from last in the field with just 300 meters left and pass everyone to win the gold medal by a fraction of a second.

Dave Wottle calls his margin of victory in the Olympic race “the three-hundredths of a second that changed my life.” When the event started, he was a phenomenon inside the distance running community. When it was over, all the world knew Dave Wottle.

Dave Wottle briefly ran professionally after leaving BGSU, then coached track and cross country for six years at Walsh and Bethany colleges before moving into a career in college administration.

Bowling Green’s Dave Wottle, his signature golf cap, and his gold medal run comprise one of the most recognizable images in the history of Olympic competition.

Dave Wottle ’73 had his class schedule in hand, he had a room assignment and a roommate all lined up, and he was ready to start college — at a school elsewhere in Ohio.

But when the talented high school distance runner realized that his best time in the mile was only three seconds shy of the record at that other college, Wottle decided Bowling Green was where he would be challenged to push himself to achieve his personal best.

“What Bowling Green had back then, with great coaches and great runners, made it a very special place,” Wottle said. “I still say I never would have been able to accomplish what I did without them driving me every day.”

As a Falcon, Wottle went on to claim five NCAA titles in track and the 800-meter crown in the 1972 AAU Championships. But it was his gold-medal-winning performance in the 800-meter run in the 1972 Munich Olympics that made him an American sports icon.

Wearing his trademark golf cap, Wottle was last in the field with a lap to go in the race, but his amazing kick carried him to the gold medal as he edged out a Russian runner by three one-hundredths of a second.

The four decades that have gone by since Wottle’s historic run have not separated the man from the moment.

“Words can’t express how I feel about winning that gold medal, and the impact it has had on my life for the past 40 years,” Wottle said. “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”

Wottle, who will retire in June after 29 years as an administrator at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tenn., said people still recognize him by name.

“It’s never a nuisance to have people bring it up. I am blessed to have won that gold medal.”

Wottle said he will mark the 40th anniversary of his Olympic gold in his characteristic reserved fashion.

“I’m sure the attention over that will come and go, but I don’t think I’ll get emotional about it. I have very fond memories, but I’m not one to live in the past,” he said. “I’m very grateful that I got to be part of something special. When you’re young, you don’t understand it, but soon you realize that was your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Stand by for the kick of Dave Wottle