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Olympic champ to speak at Fort Wayne event

Dramatic run has evolved into a YouTube must-see

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 6:40 am

Dave Wottle may have never received the notoriety he deserved during his running career, but thanks to YouTube, he'll forever be making up for lost time.

Wottle won the 800 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and one video of the race has been viewed nearly 700,000 in the last four years alone. Other related videos of the race combine for over one million views, giving Wottle more fame in his post-career than in his prime.

But more than anyone, Wottle knows that it's not how you start, but how you finish.

Wottle will be the guest speaker at the 2013 Fort Wayne Track Club award's banquet on Jan. 27. The banquet will be held at the Marriott on East Washington Center Road beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets are available online only (www.runrace.net) through Jan. 21. Tickets are currently $20 per person but increase to $25 on Jan. 1.

The event is open to the public, but FWTC members will receive a discount. Team rates are available; email tillapau@ipfw.edu for details.

On Sept. 2, 1972 ,Wottle raced from last place to first over the final 300 meters to claim the Olympic gold medal. His dramatic performance grew more legendary over the years as new generations of runners were told the story.

With the arrival of the Internet, runners of all ages were able to see for themselves. Unlike many sporting performances which tend to be exaggerated over time, Wottle's great race lives up to its reputation. “Wottle the Throttle” really does sprint past the field. He really does run the final 200 meters in 26 seconds to win by 0.03 seconds over a Soviet Union runner. And, he really did wear a goofy white golf cap.

Wottle was from Canton, Ohio and went on to run for Bowling Green State University, graduating in 1973. He won the 1972 NCAA title in the 1,500 and the 1973 NCAA title in the mile. At the Munich Games, he failed to advance to the 1,500 final; his victory in the 800 was a true upset.

But Wottle barely had time to celebrate or stand in the limelight; two days later, on Sept. 4, the Israeli hostage situation interrupted the Munich Games. And when the Olympics resumed, it was Frank Shorter's victory in the marathon that grabbed the headlines. Shorter, the 2011 FWTC banquet speaker, was largely credited with starting The Running Boom because of his marathon victory. His victory was no bigger an upset than Wottle's.

While Shorter went on to win a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, Wottle's career as an Olympic caliber runner was over within two years. Wottle went on to coach collegiately both in Ohio and West Virginia.