Open main menu

Volodymyr Petrovych Kuts (Russian: Владимир Петрович Куц, Ukrainian: Володимир Петрович Куц, 7 February 1927 – 16 August 1975) was a Soviet long-distance runner. He won the 5000 and 10000 m races at the 1956 Olympics, setting Olympic records in both events.[2]

Vladimir Kuts
Vladimir Kuts 1956c.jpg
Kuts wining the 5000 m Olympic final in 1956.
Personal information
Born7 February 1927
Oleksyne, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Died16 August 1975 (aged 48)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight72 kg (159 lb)
Event(s)5000 m, 1000 m
ClubVP Leningrad
Coached byGrigory Nikiforov[1]
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)5000 m – 13:35.0 (1957)
10000 m – 28:30.4 (1956)[2][3]


Kuts was born in Oleksyne, Ukraine, USSR.[4] His father died due to alcoholism when Kuts was five years old.[1] During World War II he falsified his age and served two years with the Soviet Army as a courier.[1] He took up running after the war, while continuing his military service as a navy sniper. In 1951 he won his first national titles, in the 5000 and 10000 m, an achievement he repeated in 1953–1956. His first international success came in 1954, when he defeated the favourites – Emil Zátopek and Christopher Chataway – in the 5000 m at the European Championships, setting a new world record. He lost the world record months later to Chataway (who beat him narrowly), only to take it back 10 days later.[2]

Having lost his world record again in 1955, Kuts was still one of the favourites for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. His chief opponent in the 5000 m was British runner Gordon Pirie, who had broken the world record earlier that year. However, Kuts had set a new 10,000 metres world record shortly before the Games. In the first final, the 10,000 m, Kuts – as always – led from the start, finally breaking Pirie's spirit 4 laps from the end and winning by a wide margin. He broke away from Pirie with a final, desperate sprint, and admitted later that had Pirie stayed with him on that sprint, he might have dropped out due to fatigue. The 5,000 m final 5 days later ended in a similar fashion, with Kuts leading from start to finish.[2] His winning margin of 11 seconds was the largest ever for this event in Olympic history.[5]

Kuts improved the 5000 m world record in 1957 to 13:35.0 minutes, a time which would remain unbeaten until 1965, when it was bettered by Australia's, Ron Clarke. Although he was only beaten on a couple of occasions, Kuts retired at the age of 32 in 1959. He had often suffered from pains in his stomach and legs, which he once froze while serving in the Navy. These problems severely hindered his training in 1957–1959 and followed him for the rest of his life.[2][1]

After retiring from competitions Kuts worked as an athletics coach. He suffered a stroke after a traffic accident in 1972, and hence was not allowed to accompany his several trainees at the 1972 Olympics.[1] He died in 1975, in an apparent suicide from mixing sleeping pills and alcohol. Near the end of his life he weighed about 120 kg, approximately 50 kg heavier than usual.[2]

Kuts was married twice, first to Raisa Andreyevna Kuts and then to Raisa Tomofeyevna Kuts. He met his first wife in 1953, when she was taking his interviews as a journalist. She later taught him Russian grammar, as Kuts completed only six years of school before the start of World War II, and often mixed up Russian and Ukrainian languages. They had a son Yuri, who became a scientist. After a second divorce in 1973 Kuts lived alone.[1]


  • Vladimir Kuts (1962). From a Newbie to Master of Sport (in Russian). Moscow: Voenizdat.


  1. ^ a b c d e f БЕГ ЗА РОДИНУ БОСЯКОМ. (14 April 2003)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Volodymyr Kuts.
  3. ^ Vladimir Kuts.
  4. ^ Vladimir Kuts (Soviet athlete). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 2014-08-08.
  5. ^ "Athletics at the 1956 Melbourne Games: Men's 5000 metres". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
Preceded by
Emil Zátopek
Chris Chataway
Sándor Iharos
Gordon Pirie
Men's 5000 m World Record Holder
29 August 1954 – 13 October 1954
23 October 1954 – 10 September 1955
18 September 1955 – 23 October 1955
13 October 1957 – 16 January 1965
Succeeded by
Chris Chataway
Sándor Iharos
Sándor Iharos
Ron Clarke
Preceded by
Sándor Iharos
Men's 10,000 m World Record Holder
11 September 1956 – 15 October 1960
Succeeded by
Pyotr Bolotnikov