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Rudolf Harbig


Rudolf Harbig

Rudolf Harbig
Stamp of Rudolf Harbig

Rudolf ("Rudi") Harbig (8 November 1913 – 5 March 1944) was a German middle distance runner best known for the 800 metres world record that he set in Milan in 1939.


Harbig was born in Dresden. He started running in 1934 and was a member of the bronze-medal-winning German 4x400 m relay team at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Two years later he defeated his long-time rival Mario Lanzi from Italy at the 1938 European Championships in Athletics in Paris over 800 m in a time of 1:50.6 min. At the same championships he won the gold medal with the German 4x400 m relay team.

In the same summer the British runner Sydney Wooderson set a remarkable new world record over 800 m at 1:48.4 min. When, in 1939, Harbig set a new national record of 1:49.4 he knew that the world record was not an unrealistic prospect. However, in the same season, Mario Lanzi ran a time of 1:49.5 in Pisa. The two rivals met in Milan in July for a much-celebrated race over 800 m on a 500 m-track. In his usual manner Lanzi took the lead and was still in front on the final bend. However, at the start of the 125 m-home-straight Harbig overtook him with an astonishing sprint. He finished with a new world record of 1:46.6 min. Lanzi, behind him, set a new Italian record of 1:49.0. In the following years Harbig's time turned out to be a very hard record to break. Even track legends Arthur Wint and Mal Whitfield could not threaten it. Finally, in August 1955 the Belgian runner Roger Moens set a new world record of 1:45.7.

Also, in 1939 Harbig set a world record over 400 m on a 500 m-track in Frankfurt in 46.0 sec. In Dresden in 1941 he set a world record over 1000 m in 2:21.5. In the Second World War Harbig was sent

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