Gabriela Andersen-Schiess

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Gabriela Andersen-Schiess
Personal information
Born (1945-05-20) May 20, 1945 (age 71)
Country   Switzerland

Gabriela ("Gaby") Andersen-Schiess (born May 20, 1945 in Zürich) is a former Swiss long-distance runner who participated in the first women's Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Though living in Idaho and working as a ski instructor at the time, Andersen-Schiess represented Switzerland in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Fourteen minutes into the 1984 Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit began to pull away from the rest of the pack. She went on to win in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds. Twenty minutes after Benoit finished, then 39-year-old Andersen-Schiess entered the stadium.

With the LA sunshine and temperatures hitting nearly 30 deg C, the conditions were very warm for running the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles. At the time, the rules stipulated that there could only be five water stations and the contestants couldn't be given water anywhere else. Unfortunately for Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, she missed the 5th and last station and got badly dehydrated as a result.[1]

The crowd gasped in horror as she staggered onto the track, her torso twisted, her left arm limp, her right leg mostly seized. She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her, knowing that if they touched her she would be disqualified. While the effects of her heat exhaustion were plainly evident, trackside medics saw that she was perspiring, which meant that her body still had some disposable fluids, and let her continue her march to the finish line. The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded and cheered as she limped around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head.

Her entrance to the Olympic stadium and the struggle over the last 400m which took five minutes and forty four seconds to complete would make it a memorable finish. What's maybe even as amazing if that despite her tortured finish, she still managed to finish 37th out of 44, ahead of seven other runners, in a time of 2h 48m 42s.[2]

Medical personnel tended to her immediately and, miraculously, she was released two hours later. Her time of 2:48:42 would have won the gold medal in the first five Olympic marathons. The day after the marathon she told The New York Times that in two weeks she would compete at Park City, UT in the 14th annual championship of Ride and Tie, the sport where two humans alternately run and ride an equine teammate. She did, finishing the 38-mile mountainous trail in 4:33 for 20th place. She won the sport's two-woman title with Sally Edwards in 1987 at Big Creek, CA. [3]

Andersen-Schiess won the inaugural California International Marathon in 1983.[4] She has also held Swiss national records in the 10,000 metres and the marathon.[5]


Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing   Switzerland
1983 California International Marathon California State Capitol, United States 1st Marathon 2:33:25
Twin Cities Marathon Minneapolis, United States 1st Marathon 2:36:22
1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles, United States 37th Marathon 2:48:42


  1. ^ Desmond, John (2015-12-06). "Running in Cork, Ireland: An Unforgettable Marathon Finish by Gabriela Andersen-Schiess in the Los Angeles Olympics". Running in Cork, Ireland. Retrieved 2016-08-26. 
  2. ^ Desmond, John (2015-12-06). "Running in Cork, Ireland: An Unforgettable Marathon Finish by Gabriela Andersen-Schiess in the Los Angeles Olympics". Running in Cork, Ireland. Retrieved 2016-08-26. 
  3. ^ "The Games of the XXIII Olympiad: Los Angeles, 1984". Retrieved 10 April 2009. 
  4. ^
  5. ^

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