Gabriela Andersen-Schiess

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Gabriela Andersen-Schiess
Personal information
Born (1945-05-20) 20 May 1945 (age 77)
Zürich, Switzerland
Country Switzerland

Gabriela "Gaby" Andersen-Schiess (born 20 May 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 Sun Valley, Idaho, and working as a ski instructor at the time, Andersen-Schiess represented Switzerland in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Major marathons[edit]

Andersen-Schiess won the inaugural California International Marathon in 1983.[1] On October of the same year, she was invited to the 2nd annual Twin Cities Marathon. With a starting temperature that was warmer than average (a low of 60 °F [16 °C] and a high of 77 °F [25 °C]), many of the 7,500 runners struggled. But Andersen excelled, winning the race in 2:36:22, setting the course record.[2]

1984 Olympics[edit]

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 temperatures hitting nearly 30 °C (86° F), 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 could not be given water anywhere else. Unfortunately for Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, she missed the fifth and last station and became dehydrated as a result. The crowd gasped 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 evident, trackside medics saw that she was perspiring, which meant that her body still had some disposable fluids, and let her continue. The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded 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. She finished 37th out of 44, in a time of 2h 48m 42s.[3][4]

Medical personnel tended to her immediately and she was released two hours later. Her time of 2:48:42 would have won the gold medal in the first four Olympic marathons.

Later career[edit]

The day after the marathon she told The New York Times that in two weeks she would compete at Park City, Utah in the 14th annual championship of Ride and Tie, the sport where two teammates 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, California. [5]

She has also held Swiss national records in the 10,000 metres and the marathon.[6]


Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Switzerland
1983 California International Marathon Sacramento, California, 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. ^ "CIM History". Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  2. ^ Brophy Achman, Virginia (October 2019). Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Media Guide 2019. St. Paul, Minnesota: Twin Cities In Motion. p. 81.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Andersen-Schiess Digs Deeper than Deep in Marathon Effort—Strangest Moments". Footage from the Woman's 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. Lausanne, Switzerland: International Olympic Committee. 11 March 2017. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ "The Games of the XXIII Olympiad: Los Angeles, 1984". Retrieved 10 April 2009.
  6. ^ "SUI Record Progressions-Road". Association of Road Running Statisticians.

External links[edit]