Athletics at the 1956 Summer Olympics – Men's 800 metres

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Men's 800 metres
at the Games of the XVI Olympiad
Dates November 23 (heats)
November 24 (semifinals)
November 26 (final)
Competitors 38
Gold medal 
Silver medal 
Bronze medal 
1952 1960
Video on YouTube Official Video
Athletics at the
1956 Summer Olympics
Athletics pictogram.svg
Track events
100 m   men   women
200 m men women
400 m men
800 m men
1500 m men
5000 m men
10,000 m men
80 m hurdles women
110 m hurdles men
400 m hurdles men
3000 m
4×100 m relay men women
4×400 m relay men
Road events
Marathon men
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50 km walk men
Field events
Long jump men women
Triple jump men
High jump men women
Pole vault men
Shot put men women
Discus throw men women
Javelin throw men women
Hammer throw men
Combined events
Decathlon men

These are the official results of the Men's 800 metres event at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. There were a total number of 38 competitors.

This one Olympiad saw the use of starting blocks from a waterfall start for the 800 meters. All subsequent races have used a standing start in lanes, breaking after the first turn (known as a one turn stagger). Out of the blocks, Tom Courtney got the edge around the turn, but by the end of the turn Arnie Sowell edged into the lead. Over the next 150 metres, Sowell opened up as much as a three metre lead, but Courney didn't go away. He bided his time for the next lap working his way back to Sowell's shoulder into the final turn and he brought Audun Boysen and Derek Johnson with him. Coming off the final turn it was the two Americans shoulder to shoulder, Sowell on the inside and Courtney on the outside looking like they would fight each other to the finish line like so many domestic races earlier in the season. Johnson had other ideas, squeezing between the two and into daylight. Again Courtney didn't go away, instead accelerating to keep pace, then with a final burst of speed, passing Johnson 20 metres before the tape to take the gold. Boysen followed Courtney past Sowell to narrowly capture bronze.



Five heats were held, the fastest three of each would qualify for the semifinals.

Heat 1[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Audun Boysen (NOR) 1:52.0
2  Mike Rawson (GBR) 1:52.1
3  Yoshitaka Muroya (JPN) 1:52.3
4  Gerard Rasquin (LUX) 1:52.7
5  Dimitrios Constantinidis (GRE) 1:52.7
6  Frank Rivera (PUR) 1:56.4
7  Mamo Wolde (ETH) 1:58.0

Heat 2[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Tom Courtney (USA) 1:52.7
2  Mike Farrell (GBR) 1:52.8
3  Evangelos Depastas (GRE) 1:53.1
4  Donald MacMillan (AUS) 1:53.4
5  Shigeharu Suzuki (JPN) 1:54.1
6  Paul Schmidt (EUA) 1:55.6
7  Manikavagasam Harichandra (MAL) TNT
8  Douglas Clement (CAN) TNT
9  Phoi Jaiswang (THA) TNT

Heat 3[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  James Bailey (AUS) 1:51.1
2  Arnie Sowell (USA) 1:51.3
3  Emile Leva (BEL) 1:52.0
4  Sohan Singh (IND) 1:52.4
5  Eduardo Fontecilla (CHI) 1:52.8
6  Gunther Dohrow (EUA) 1:53.7
7  Arap Kiptalam Keter (KEN) TNT
8  Bayene Ayanew (ETH) TNT
9  Kenneth Perera (MAL) TNT

Heat 4[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Gunnar Nielsen (DEN) 1:51.2
2  Lonnie Spurrier (USA) 1:51.5
3  Bill Butchart (AUS) 1:51.6
4  Gianfranco Baraldi (ITA) 1:51.9
5  Abdullah Khan (PAK) 1:52.6
6  Sang Ok-Sim (KOR) 1:55.5
7  George Johnson (LBR) TNT

Heat 5[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Derek Johnson (GBR) 1:50.8
2  Rene Dijan (FRA) 1:51.1
3  Lajos Szentgali (HUN) 1:51.8
4  Ramon Sandoval (CHI) 1:51.9
5  Klaus Richtzenhain (EUA) 1:53.3
6  Jan Mahmud (PAK) 1:59.5


Two semifinals were held, the fastest four of each would qualify for the final.

Semifinal 1[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Thomas Courtney (USA) 1:53.6
2  Lonnie Spurrier (USA) 1:53.6
3  Mike Farrell (GBR) 1:53.7
4  Bill Butchart (AUS) 1:53.8
5  Lajos Szentgali (HUN) 1:53.9
6  Yoshitaka Muroya (JPN) 1:54.5
-  Gunnar Nielsen (DEN) DNS

Semifinal 2[edit]

Place Athlete Time
1  Arnie Sowell (USA) 1:50.0
2  Audun Boysen (NOR) 1:50.0
3  Derek Johnson (GBR) 1:50.2
4  Emile Leva (BEL) 1:50.4
5  Mike Rawson (GBR) 1:50.4
6  Rene Dijan (FRA) 1:50.7
7  James Bailey (AUS) 1:51.4
8  Evangelos Depastas (GRE) TNT


Place Athlete Time Notes
1  Tom Courtney (USA) 1:47.7 OR
2  Derek Johnson (GBR) 1:47.8
3  Audun Boysen (NOR) 1:48.1
4  Arnie Sowell (USA) 1:48.3
5  Mike Farrell (GBR) 1:49.2
6  Lonnie Spurrier (USA) 1:49.3
7  Emile Leva (BEL) TNT
8  Bill Butchart (AUS) TNT