The men’s 1500-m final brought down the curtain on the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games. Tanzanian Filbert Bayi, the runaway leader, set a new world record of 3 minutes 32.16 seconds. New Zealander John Walker came close to catching Bayi and also broke Jim Ryun’s world record. Remarkably, the third, fourth (New Zealander Rod Dixon) and fifth placegetters ran the fourth, fifth and seventh fastest 1500-m times to that date. Five national records were broken.
Bayi and Walker continued their rivalry in 1975. On 17 May Bayi broke Ryun’s eight-year-old record for the mile, clocking 3:51.0. This record was short-lived, as Walker became history’s first sub-3:50 miler on 12 August, running 3:49.4 at Gothenburg, Sweden.
The much-anticipated clash between the two runners at the 1976 Montreal Olympics failed to eventuate. Tanzania joined other black African nations in boycotting the games in protest against the All Blacks’ tour of South Africa earlier that year. Bayi’s participation in the games was already in doubt, as he was ill with malaria shortly before the Olympics began.
Image: Filbert Bayi and John Walker cross the line in the 1500 m (BBC)