Today's Article - Wyndham Halswelle

This article is for quizzes on Tuesday August 16th...

Wyndham Halswelle (30 May 1882 – 31 March 1915) was a British athlete. He won the controversial 400 m race at the 1908 Summer Olympics, becoming the only athlete to win an Olympic title by a walkover.
In 1908 Summer Olympics, Halswelle reached the final of the 400 m with the fastest qualifying time (an Olympic record of 48.4 s). The 400 m was not run in lanes at this point. Halswelle was baulked by William Robbins in the first 50 m. Then, coming off the final bend, Robbins led John Carpenter by a yard, with Halswelle waiting to pass him in the last straight, as he had done to other athletes in the earlier rounds. Carpenter ran wide, forcing Halswelle to within eighteen inches of the outside of the track, using his right elbow to prevent Halswelle overtaking. British umpire Roscoe Badger observed that Carpenter maneuvered so as to prevent Halswelle from passing him. While blocking competitors was a legal move or strategy in the United States, it was not at all acceptable under the British norms. And the 1908 London Olympics were being organized under the British rules. Naturally, Badger took no time to signal to the judges to declare the race void. Pictures of the race indicate that Carpenter (intentionally or not) blocked Halswelle.

The race was ordered to be rerun in lanes two days later without Carpenter; however, the other two U.S. runners refused to race, so, though reluctant, Halswelle ran the race by himself to win the gold in a time of 50.2 s. It is the only occasion in Olympic history where the final was a walkover. As a result of the controversy, from the next Olympics in 1912 onwards all 400 metre races were run in lanes, and the International Amateur Athletic Federation was founded to establish uniform worldwide rules for athletics.

The controversy soured Halswelle's view of athletics. He was also under pressure from his senior officers, who felt he was being exploited, and he retired from athletics after a farewell appearance at the 1908 Glasgow Rangers Sports.


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