Athletics at the 1908 Summer Olympics – Men's 400 metres hurdles
The men's 400 metres hurdles was the longer of two hurdling events at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. It was the third time the event had been featured at the Olympics. The Olympic record was beat three times in the course of the Games. The competition was held from Monday, July 20, 1908, to Wednesday, July 22, 1908. 15 runners from six nations competed. NOCs could enter up to 12 athletes. The event was won by Charles Bacon of the United States, defeating teammate and defending champion Harry Hillman by 0.3 seconds in the final. It was the third gold medal in three Games for the American team in the event. Hillman was the first man to earn multiple medals in the 400 metres hurdles. Jimmy Tremeer of Great Britain earned bronze, the first medal for the nation in the men's 400 metres hurdles.
|Men's 400 metres hurdles|
at the Games of the IV Olympiad
|Venue||White City Stadium|
|Dates||July 20 (quarterfinals) |
July 21 (semifinals)
July 22 (final)
|Competitors||15 from 6 nations|
|Winning time||55.0 WR|
This was the third time the event was held. Introduced along with the men's 200 metres hurdles in 1900, the men's 400 metres hurdles was still on the program while the 200 was not. The 400 metres version would be held in 1900, 1904, and 1908 before being left off for one Games in 1912; when the Olympics returned after World War I, the men's 400 metres hurdles was back and would continue to be contested at every Games thereafter. One of the four hurdlers from the 1904 Games returned: gold medalist Harry Hillman of the United States.
Australasia, Great Britain, Hungary, and the Netherlands each made their debut in the event. The United States made its third appearance, the only nation to have competed at every edition of the event to that point.
The competition consisted of three rounds: quarterfinals, semifinals, and a final. Ten sets of hurdles were set on the course. The hurdles were 3 feet (= 91.5 centimetre) tall and were placed 35 metres apart beginning 45 metres from the starting line.
There were 12 quarterfinal heats scheduled, but only 11 actually were contested as one heat had no starters. There were only one or two hurdlers in each quarterfinal heat. The winner advanced in the 4 heats that had two runners. The 11 men who advanced were divided into four semifinal heats of 2 or 3 hurdlers each; again, only the fastest man advanced. The final had 4 competitors.
These were the standing world and Olympic records (in seconds) prior to the 1908 Summer Olympics.
|World record||Charles Bacon (USA)||55.8*||Philadelphia, United States||6 July 1908|
|Olympic record||Walter Tewksbury (USA)||57.6**||Paris, France||15 July 1900|
** This track was 500 metres in circumference.
Harry Hillman had run 53.0 seconds in 1904 but he knocked over a hurdle and the hurdles were only 30 inches (76 cm) high.
In the first round Charles Bacon set a new Olympic record with 57.0 seconds. In the second round Hillman set a new record with 56.4 seconds. In the final Bacon set a new world record with 55.0 seconds. This record became the first official world record for the 400 metres hurdles.
|Monday, 20 July 1908||16:45||Quarterfinals|
|Tuesday, 21 July 1908||16:00||Semifinals|
|Wednesday, 22 July 1908||15:30||Final|
There was no competition for Koops in the first heat.
A tight race from start to finish, Coe won by about a metre.
|1||Harry Coe||United States||58.8||Q|
|2||John Densham||Great Britain||59.0|
Bacon won easily, breaking Godfrey Shaw's 440 yards world record.
|1||Charles Bacon||United States||57.0||Q, OR|
|2||Henry St Aubyn Murray||Australasia||59.8|
There was no competition for Harmer in the fourth heat.
|1||Frederick Harmer||Great Britain||walkover||Q|
There was no competition for Burton in the fifth heat.
|1||Geoffrey Burton||Great Britain||walkover||Q|
Dubois pulled up lame three-quarters of the way through the race, leaving Hillman with the win.
|1||Harry Hillman||United States||59.2||Q|
There was no competition for Groenings in the seventh heat.
|1||Oswald Groenings||Great Britain||walkover||Q|
There was no competition for Gould in the eighth heat.
|1||Wyatt Gould||Great Britain||walkover||Q|
There was no competition for Kovacs in the ninth heat.
There was no competition for Tremeer in the tenth heat.
|1||Jimmy Tremeer||Great Britain||walkover||Q|
The eleventh heat was cancelled as there were no starters.
In only the fourth actual race of the first round, and the third in which both runners finished, Burton won in the straight.
|1||Leslie Burton||Great Britain||1:00.4||Q|
Koops fell; Hillman won easily, breaking Bacon's record that was set in the first round.
|1||Harry Hillman||United States||56.4||Q, OR|
|2||Harry Coe||United States||57.0|
Bacon started off fast, and the other two runners dropped out at 200m.
|1||Charles Bacon||United States||58.8||Q|
|—||Oswald Groenings||Great Britain||DNF|
Burton led after the hurdles, and won despite losing ground in the straight.
|1||Leslie Burton||Great Britain||59.8||Q|
|2||Frederick Harmer||Great Britain||1:00.3|
|3||Wyatt Gould||Great Britain||Unknown|
Burton retired, allowing Tremeer to win with a jog.
|1||Jimmy Tremeer||Great Britain||1:00.6||Q|
|—||Geoffrey Burton||Great Britain||DNF|
The final was held on Wednesday, July 22, 1908. Halfway into the race, it was clear that the only question was which American would win. Bacon and Hillman were even all the way until the straight, with Bacon just barely pulling ahead to win by two yards, as both of the Americans came in under the world record set by Hillman in the second round.
|Charles Bacon||United States||55.0||WR|
|Harry Hillman||United States||55.3|
|Jimmy Tremeer||Great Britain||57.0|
|4||Leslie Burton||Great Britain||58.0|
|Charles Bacon||United States||57.0||58.8||55.0||WR|
|Harry Hillman||United States||59.2||56.4||55.3|
|Jimmy Tremeer||Great Britain||Bye||1:00.6||57.0|
|4||Leslie Burton||Great Britain||1:00.4||59.8||58.0|
|5||Harry Coe||United States||58.8||57.0||Did not advance|
|6||Frederick Harmer||Great Britain||Bye||1:00.3|
|7||Wyatt Gould||Great Britain||Bye||Unknown|
|8||Geoffrey Burton||Great Britain||Bye||DNF|
|Oswald Groenings||Great Britain||Bye||DNF|
|12||John Densham||Great Britain||59.0||Did not advance|
|13||Henry St Aubyn Murray||Australasia||59.8|
- "Athletics at the 1908 London Summer Games: Men's 400 metres Hurdles". sports-reference.com. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
- Official report, p. 32.
- "400 metres Hurdles, Men". Olympedia. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
- Official Report, p. 62.