Sera Martin of France lowered the mark to 1:50.6 in 1928, then Great Britain’s Tommy Hampson and Canada’s Alex Wilson became the first runners to finish 800 meters in less than 1:50, at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Wilson, Hampson was a bit faster. He was electrically timed in 1:49.70, but under the then-current IAAF rules he went into the record books with a time of 1:49.8. Wilson was second in 1:49.9. American Ben Eastman matched the 1:49.8 time in 1934, in an 880-yard event.
Harbig’s record lasted just past 16 years, until Belgium’s Roger Moens ran the 800 in 1:45.7 in 1955. New Zealand’s middle distance ace, Peter Snell, then lowered the mark to 1:44.3 in 1962, on his way to a time of 1:45.1 in the 800. Snell was the last runner to set an 800-meter world record in a longer race. Australia’s Ralph Doubell then became the third man to set the 800-meter record at the Olympics, finishing in 1:44.3 (electronically timed at 1:44.40) in Mexico City in 1968.
Dave Wottle was the last American – as of 2013 – to put his name in the 800-meter record books as he matched Doubell’s 1:44.3 time at the 1972 Olympic Trials. One year later, Italy’s Marcello Fiasconaro lowered the mark below 1:44, finishing in 1:43.7. Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena – who only took up the 800 at his coach’s insistence in 1976 – then broke the record twice. Juantorena set his first mark, 1:43.5, as the surprise winner of the 1976 Olympic gold medal. He then edged the record down to 1:43.4 at the World University Games the following year.
Sebastian Coe – Lord of the 800:
Kenyan-born Wilson Kipketer was running for Denmark when he matched Coe’s mark in July of 1997. Kipketer then claimed the record for himself the following month, running 1:41.24 in Zurich. Kipketer lowered the mark to 1:41.11 just 11 days later, on Aug. 24, giving him three world-record performances within about six weeks.