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Munich Olympic’72 Pentathlon – thrilling story with unexpected end (0)

Alexander Vangelov
May 04, 2020
One of the most exciting and unpredicted event of athletic program of XX Olympic Games in Munich 1972 was the women’s Pentathlon. The people of the host country – West Germany – were keen to see the second victory of their local hero Heidemarie Rosendahl. Heide has had already won her first gold medal (in Long Jump) and became one of strongest pretenders for the crown of the “women athlete of athletes” at jubilee Olympiade.

What was the situation at women’s Pentathlon just before the Munich forum? World record holder Burglinde Pollak (4775 from 1970) has had scored 4759 points (only 16 points below). Her marks in Potsdam on 15th June were as follows: 100 m hurdles 13.3; SP 15.85; HJ 1.70; LJ 6.37; 200 m  24.0. The compatriot of Pollak – 21 years old blonde tall girl with dark glasses Christine Bodner also looked dangerously – 4693 point in Dresden on 29th c June: 13.4; 13.14; 1.77; 6.35; 23.6. The soviet record holder Valentina Tikhomirova impressed with score of 4739 made at USSR Champs in Moscow on 15th July: 13.6; 15.00; 1.79; 6.28; 24.0.

What about German lover Rosendahl. During season she made only three Pentathlon contests. First of them was in Neuhausen early on 28th May – 4637 points (13.2 windy; 13.44; 1.64; 6.56; 23.8). Second one appeared to be in Moskow on 10th June 4474 (13.5; 13.42; 1.62; 6.52; 23.7). And at FRG Champs at Olympia Stadium in Munich on 20th July Heide won her fifth (and third in row) national title – 4563 points (13.64; 11.98; 1.65; 6.54; 23.30).

Almost nobody has had then counted the Northern Ireland (representing Great Britain of course) athlete Mary Peters. Thirty-three old pentathlete from Belfast stormed in London on early 6th May with British record of 4630 points (13.7 windy; 15.40; 1.77; 6.04; 24.5), and proceed with less significant 4475 points in home Belfast on 05th July. Mary confirmed her readiness in Dutch Papendal on 30th July – 4558 points (14.0; 15.28; 1.73; 5.87; 24.2)…..

The Pentathlon in Munich was scheduled for 02th and 03th September (Saturday & Sunday). First of five disciplines had to be 100 m hurdles.

100 M HURDLES (02 September (09:30). The girls were allocated in five heats. Yet in the first of them the line up ordered two of the main contenders – Rosendahl and Pollak. Heide got a good start and led to Burglinde, but for regret hit the fifth hurdle, which maybe a little bit slowed her. Rosendahl finished for 13.34 (953 p.) (head wind -0.2), thus registering new Olympic record (as 100 m hurdles appeared for the first time at Olympics in Munich). German wasn’t fully content, as she has had already achieved 13.28 in Augsburg at the end of June. Pollak arrived second in insufficient 13.53 (927 p.), just ahead of second British – Ann Wilson – 13.61. Soviet Tikhomirova set relatively enough 13.77 for fourth. And Bulgarian Nedyalka Angelova set off slowly and lost at the start around 0.2 second to score 13.84. The next second heat occurred to be the fastest among the five – GDR Bodner was in lane six, Peteres in lane seven. After the British took better start, both flied above the hurdles like bounded pair - side by side. Blonde short haired Bodner arrived with little advance – 13.25 (966) with following wind of +0.5 m/s. Peters made NR with 13.29 (960) /NR/. Behind them second Soviet Nadezhda Tkachenko was third 13.81 (890). Ex world record holder Liese Prokop from Austria got off with a very good speed and run in fine rhythmic to the fourth hurdle, where she hit the up plank and lost balance. Prokop recovered, but was unlucky to hit the tenth hurdle and to end in poor 14.11 (852). The third (Nigerian Oshikoya 13.96 (871) and fourth heats (Canadian Diane Jones 14.79 (772) appeared slower. In last fifth heat Hungarian Ilona Bruzsenyak won in 13.65 (wind still) for 911 points. So the current standings showed: 1.Bodner 966, 2.Peters 960, 3.Rosendahl 953, 4.Pollak 927, 5.Willson 916, 6.Bruzsenyak 911, 7.Tikhomirova 895, 8.Tkachenko 890, 9. Angelova 886, 10. Oshikoya & Yugoslavian Djurdja Focic 871 points.

SHOT PUTTING (02 September, 10:30). No less than 30 competitors entered two sectors for the second event of Pentathlon – shot putting. In the first group were settled the best contenders. In first (out of three) round the favorites Peters (15.05), Prokop (15.14) and Pollak (15.56) exceeded the 15 meters. Hostess – tall and blonde Karen Mack made pb of 14.10 and Angelova also took – 13.96. Second round showed Rosendahl to launch the shot to 13.86 (830) – her best in 1972. Bodner felt weakly – only 12.51 (750). Just after her Mary Peters putted the iron sphere to 16.20 (960).  Pollak also improved to 16.04 m (952). But Soviet Tikhomirova was below her usual 15.50 m – now she couldn’t register more than 14.64 (875) in third round….. In second group only Canadian Diane Jones (15.05) (898) and GDR Monika Peikert 14.14 (846) were somehow impressive. So, after second event Peters extended her leadership with 1920 points, Pollak climbed to second (1879) and Rosendahl was third (1783), only 13 points ahead of Tikhomirova (1770). In good fifth position Prokop scored sum of 1755 for fifth. Sixth was Angelova 1722, seventh Bodner 1716, eighth Tkachenko 1710, Peikert 1683 left ninth, 10. Jones 1670, 11. Bruzsenyak 1660 and 12.Karen Mack (FRG)….. The experts and odds were rather astonished of the unexpected excellent appearance of the veteran Peters.

HIGH JUMP (02 September, 16:45). Again two groups were settled on two parallel pits with green covers.... In the stronger Group A only Australian Lynnette Tillett commenced with 1.45 and was joined at 1.50 by Tkachenko and.... Rosendahl. This was Heide’s weakest event for years (with pb of 1.70  in straddle style). Rosendahl couldn’t succeed to more than 1.65 that afternoon and that caused her to drop from third to fifth with just 301 points less than Peters. Six athletes succesively (Tikhomirova, US Jane Frederick, Peters, Bodner, Pollak and Hungarian Margit Papp) reached (and got!) the height of 1.74. Of them Mary Peters felt troubles on 1.71 (got with third try), but recovered with clearance at once of 1.74. At 1.76 Tikhomirova failed, Mack got with first try and Frederick failed three times. Northern Irish Peters again fell in difficulties – 1.76 at third attempt. GDR Bodner and Pollak got those 1.76 at once, and Hungarian Papp – at second attempt. All except Peters failed three times at 1.78. Mary continued with her astonishing brilliant appearance in that High Jump. Blonde charming woman proceed with first clearance of 1.80 and 1.82...

All alone in the fiеld, Мary was cheered by the foreigh crowd (most of British fans) around the sector after every next succesful jump. But the West German people on the sits kept silence in a great disappointment – with every next clearance Peters extended the gap between herself and local lover Rosendahl. After the first three events Peters led with huge amount of 2969 points, followed by Pollak 2872 points (-97 points) and Soviet Tikhomirova 2744 (-225 points). Bodner stayed fourth 2709 (-250 points). Rosendahl had to survive a sleepless night on fifth spot with 2668 points (-301 points). Sixth was hostess Karen Mack 2648, Seventh – Canadian Diane Jones, eight – Austrian Liese Prokop, 9. Angelova 2637, 10. Tkachenko 2595, 11. Yugislavian Focic 2571, 12. Bruzsenyak 2545, 13. Frederick 2542, 14.Margit Papp 2540, 15. Deborah van Kiekebelt (Can) 2522, 16. Monika Peikert 2517. Only 78 points separated the tenth Tkachenko from Peikert in 11th place.

LONG JUMP, 03 September, (11:00). Two groups began their attempts in the fourth event of Pentathlon in the sunny Sunday morning. In the first group the crowd couldn’t glimpse Liese Prokop -   Austrian decide not to go on in the contest… Young 19 years old Aussie Lynnette Tylette (with 6.60 pb only a week ago at the same stadium), who crashed three day ago at LJ qualification, now began with good 6.44 (+1.3) (1001). Peters fouled and Pollak wrote miserable 5.96. It was now Rosendahl’s turn. Heide approached furiously in speed run the take-off board and leaped nicely (and effectively) to incredible 6.83 m – a single cm below her own WR (but it was added by assisting wind of +2.7 m/sec. – over the limit). That length meant 1082 points! Bodner stayed safe with 6.21 m. In second round world record holder Pollak added 25 cm for 6.21 (-0.2) and Karen Mack registered pb of 6.11 (-0.8). Rosendahl stood at the beginning of the path before the pit determined to leap over 7 meters… Was she ready for better her own World record (6.84 m)? All the spectacors witnessed an extraordinary jump and Heide landed at about 6.90 – 6.95 m. (Some of the observers claimed the measurement of that attempt was 7.11 m!!!)..... But what a pitty, the judge raised the read flag – the try was declared foul. Rosendahl was raging and began to argue with the officials. But nothing changed – unfaithful attempt… After Hiede Soviet Tkachenko had to wait for several minutes for her second try and finally leapt to 6.18 (945 points). Later Bulgarian Nedyalka Angelova made personal best of good 6.32 (+1.1) (975). Later in that round 2 Christine Bodner excelled for one more pb in the groupe A - 6.40 (-0.3) (992). Third round didn’t change the things significantly. Mary Peters finally accomplished a mark 8 cm shorter of her best – now she achieved 5.98 m (902 points). Soon her teammate Ann Wilson advanced to 6.31 m (-0.6), but Pollak couldn’t improve – only 6.19… Nigerian Modupe Oshikoya showed good speed, but miserable technique and nevertheless wrote 6.27 m. Hostess Rosendahl looked exhausted – 6.68 (0.6) and Tikhomirova add only 5 cm for 6.15 m (939)…. The last to jump Bodner ended the route with another sympatic leap of 6.35 m. In second Groupe B the short (1.65 tall) Hungarian Ilona Bruzsenyak registered 6.29 (969) (she bettered Hungarian record of 6.39 m three days earlier in LJ qualification). Romanian Elena Vintila (who has already 6.44 m four months earlier) now leapt to 6.27 (1.2). So after penultimate event Rosendahl depleted the point deficit behind Peters from 301 points to 121. The standings were: 1. Peters 3871, 2. Pollak 3824, 3. Rosendahl 3750, 4.Christine Bodner 3701, 5.Tikhomirova 3683, 6.Angelova 3612, 7. Karen Mack 3578, 8.Tkachenko 3540, 9. Diane Jones 3535, 10. Ilona Bruzsenyak 3514, 11. Djurdja Focic 3459, 12. Monika Peikert 3449 points….

200 M, 03 September 16:45. Four heats were settled and West German experts and odds calculated thoroughly the Rosendahl’s possibilities of “catching” Peters. Heide opted to run 200 m in speed of exactly 1.21 seconds faster than Peters to grab the crown. In aspect of Heide’s pb of 23.1 (23.27) and Mary’s 24.2 (plus Burglinde Pollak’s pb of 23.8) nobody dared to predict how can be concluded that true thriller. The first heat showed short Hungarian Bruzsenyak to win with pb of 24.35 (905 p.) followed by Yugoslavian Focic 24.70 (873). Second heat appeared as more debated – Lynnette Tyllette won with pb of 24.36 (0.5) (904), a fraction ahead of Peruvian Edith Noeding 24.41 /NR/…. Penultimate heat proposed sharp rivalry – one hundredth separated US Gayle Fitzgerald (23.97 940 p.) from Oshikoya (23.98 939 p.) by headwind of (-0.4). Althouth their marks were pleasant, two athletes didn’t induce some great improvement of their standings…. In the heat Margot Eppinger (FRG) also bettered her pb to 24.18 (921)…. And then came the moment of truth – the fifth and final crucial heat. Here were lined up the first seven athletes in current standings. In first lane was disposed Bodner, in second – Pollak, in third – Peters, in fourth - Angelova, in fifth – Tikhomirova, in sixth – Rosendahl and in seventh – Mack. Heide looked a little bit angry and annoyed, Mary stayed calmer. All they heard the shoot of the gun and rushed of through the curve. After first 100 m Bodner in first lane was a fraction ahead of Rosendahl. But in lane six Heide bursted into a incredible speed and went in front. Pollak in lane two catched Peters and overtook her with 80 meters to go! Rosendahl increased the gasp before Bodner. And eventually finished first with excellent 22.96 (1041) into a head wind of (-0.6). That mark meant NR of West Germany and would have rank Heide among the best eight sprinters in the 200 m of individual event five days later! But are those seconds sufficient for overwhelming Peters? The athletes of the five heats stayed at the area just right from the finish line anticipating the final results of the fifth heat. All their eyes were stared at the huge score board above the tribunes. Peters and Ann Wilson laughed in the companionship of Canadian Diane Jones and US Frederick. Just behind them were soviets Tikhomirova and Tkachenko, near was Bulgarian Angelova. After a few unbearable minutes all they exculted in joy – Rosendahl 22.96, Bodner 23.66, Pollak 23.93, Peters 24.08 (pb), Tikhomirova 24.25, Angelova 24.58, Mack 24.72……. The task for Mary was accomplished brilliantly (Mary had to run the race not worse than 1.2 seconds behind Heide) – Peters was weaker in 1.12 seconds than Rosendahl. Wilson and Jones were first that congratulated Peters, next was Mary’s coach Buster McShane. Heide was deeply disgraced and disappointed, but gently putted hand on Mary’s shoulder and took shake. Mary embraced her and went to greet other danger rival Burglinde Pollak. Heide’s coach Gerd Osenberg tried to comfort his alumnus. It was a memorable moment to look those young women together down there enjoying their selves two days of competing together on the track and the field…. First two athletes bettered the world record – Peters scored 4801 points in all, Rosendahl gathered 4791 (both over Pollak’s mark of 4775 points). West German Rosendahl felt herself as world record holder for exactly 1.12 second, before Peters ended her race for 24.08 sec.!!! So the places after the first two were:  3. Pollak (GDR) 4768, 4. Bodner (GDR) 4671, 5. Tikhomirova (URS) 4597 (with strong pain in injured ankle), 6. Angelova (Bul) 4495 /NR/, 7. Mack 4449 (FRG) /pb/, 8.Bruzsenyak 4419 (Hun), 9.Tkachenko URS) 4370, 10. Jones (Can) 4349, 11. Focic (Yug) 4332, 12. Margot Eppinger (FRG) 4313, 13. Ann Wilson (Gbr) 4279, 14. Modupe Oshikoya (Nig) 4279…

The Pentathlon contest in Munich will remain in athletic history like a pleasant thriller and exciting competition with a lot of high marks. It was a great joy and glory for British nation with the triumph of their charming Olympic champion. And also both days appeared as of an intention, hope and disaster for host “goodness” Heide Rosendahl…

Alexander Vangelov for Decathlon 2000

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