Olympic Spotlight: Track and Field's Archie Hahn and David Neville
July 29, 2008
by Jeff Smith
With the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games quickly approaching, BigTen.org takes a look at both former and current Olympians who have made their mark in their respective sports. In today’s “Olympic Spotlight” feature, we take a look at the Olympic track and field careers of Archie Hahn of Michigan and Indiana’s David Neville.
ARCHIE HAHN, SPRINTS, MICHIGAN, 1901-05
Former Michigan sprinter Archie Hahn was a three-time gold medalist at the 1904 Olympic Games and then returned to capture gold in Athens at the 1906 Intercalated Games. Known to many as "The Milwaukee Meteor," Hahn was one of the world’s top sprinters at the start of the 20th century despite having not taken up competitive running until the age of 19.
With sprint victories at the 1903 American and Canadian Championships, Hahn was seen as the favorite for taking gold in several events at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. The Summer Games that year did not feature several European sprinters, which increased Hahn’s chances for gold even more. And did he deliver!
Hahn began his quest for three gold medals by capturing the 60-meter dash in 7.0 seconds. He followed that race up with a wire-to-wire finish in the 200 meters. His world-record time of 21.6 seconds was notable for two reasons as he ran the event on a straight course and also had a two-yard head start on the field after his fellow competitors were penalized for a false start. Hahn then earned his third win of the Games by crossing the 100-meter dash line in 11.0 seconds. Three years prior to his final win, Hahn tied the world record in the event with a time of 9.8 seconds in 1901.
During the 1906 Intercalated Games, Hahn recorded his fourth gold medal by successfully defending his 100-meter title. His 100-meter double was a feat unmatched until Carl Lewis won his second straight 100-meter crown in 1988. Lewis did capture the two golds in consecutive Olympic Games, while Hahn on the other hand, earned his second gold in an event not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee. However, the 1906 Games was staged by the IOC to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the very first Olympics in Athens in 1986.
Hahn was recruited to Michigan in 1900 from his hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., after representatives from Ann Arbor saw him race at a county fair. He studied law at Michigan, but made a career as a coach and an author following college. He published “How to Sprint” – a book widely regarded as an Olympic sprinter’s textbook on proper starts, body balance, arm swing, and breathing. He also coached the University of Virginia to 12 state championships in 13 years and was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1984, 29 years following his death.
DAVID NEVILLE, SPRINTS, INDIANA, 2003-06
Former Indiana sprinter David Neville is preparing for his first Olympics as he qualified for the Beijing Games by finishing third in the 400 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month. In doing so, Neville became the first male Hoosier to qualify for the Olympics since 1996, when Bob Kennedy and Jim Spivey both qualified in the 5,000-meter run.
Neville’s time of 44.61 seconds was good enough for a bronze at the Trials, finishing behind first-place finisher LeShawn Merritt and former gold-medalist Jeremy Wariner.
The former Hoosier also competed at the 2004 Olympic Trials in both the 200 and 400-meter events. He missed the cut for the finals with a 17th-place finish in the 400 meters and advanced to the quarterfinals in the 200.
Back in February, Neville took home the 400-meter crown at the AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Boston.
In just three years at Indiana, Neville was a five-time All-American and a five-time Big Ten Champion. After redshirting in 2003 to be a member of the IU Marching Band, Neville returned to the track in 2004 to take seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 200 meters. He found the majority of his success during the outdoor season as he captured Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Male Athlete of the Championship honors following wins in both the 200 and 400 meters. He earned two more All-America accolades with a seventh-place NCAA Championships finish in the 400 meters and a 10th-place result in the 200.
Neville helped the Hoosiers to a runner-up finish at the 2005 Big Ten Indoor meet and won the 200 meters in 21.46 seconds for his third conference crown. He then captured the 400-meter title a few months later at the Big Ten Outdoor Championship.
As a senior, Neville elected to participate in the indoor season only before foregoing his senior year of eligibility in the outdoor season to turn professional. He captured the Big Ten title in both the 200 and 400 meters with personal-best times of 20.81 and 45.58, respectively. He then finished runner-up in the 400 at the NCAA Championships with a school-record mark of 45.58 seconds and was sixth in the 200 with a time of 20.81.