Rudolf Harbig

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Stamps of Germany (BRD) 1968, MiNr 562.jpg
Stamp of Rudolf Harbig

Rudolf ("Rudi") Harbig (8 November 1913 – 5 March 1944) was a German middle distance runner best known for the 800 metres world record that he set in Milan in 1939.

Life[edit]

Harbig was born in Dresden. He started running in 1934 and was a member of the bronze-medal-winning German 4x400 m relay team at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Two years later he defeated his long-time rival Mario Lanzi from Italy at the 1938 European Championships in Athletics in Paris over 800 m in a time of 1:50.6 min. At the same championships he won the gold medal with the German 4x400 m relay team.

In the same summer the British runner Sydney Wooderson set a remarkable new world record over 800 m at 1:48.4 min. When, in 1939, Harbig set a new national record of 1:49.4 he knew that the world record was not an unrealistic prospect. However, in the same season, Mario Lanzi ran a time of 1:49.5 in Pisa. The two rivals met in Milan in July for a much-celebrated race over 800 m on a 500 m-track. In his usual manner Lanzi took the lead and was still in front on the final bend. However, at the start of the 125 m-home-straight Harbig overtook him with an astonishing sprint. He finished with a new world record of 1:46.6 min. Lanzi, behind him, set a new Italian record of 1:49.0. In the following years Harbig's time turned out to be a very hard record to break. Even track legends Arthur Wint and Mal Whitfield could not threaten it. Finally, in August 1955 the Belgian runner Roger Moens set a new world record of 1:45.7.

Also, in 1939 Harbig set a world record over 400 m on a 500 m-track in Frankfurt in 46.0 sec. In Dresden in 1941 he set a world record over 1000 m in 2:21.5. In the Second World War Harbig was sent to the Eastern Front and died in Ukraine in 1944. Holding the rank of Feldwebel (Sergeant) at the time he served in Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6 under the command of Hauptmann (Captain) Friedrich August von der Heydte as a platoon leader.


Records
Preceded by
United Kingdom Sydney Wooderson
Men's 800 metres World Record Holder
15 June 1939 – 3 August 1955
Succeeded by
Belgium Roger Moens
Preceded by
United Kingdom Godfrey Brown
European Record Holder Men's 400m
12 August 1939 - 24 June 1955
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Ardalion Ignatyev
Preceded by
United Kingdom Sydney Wooderson
European Record Holder Men's 800m
17 July 1939 - 2 August 1955
Succeeded by
Belgium Roger Moens

References[edit]