Another late January Sunday evening, another Fort Wayne Track Club banquet and, of course, another Olympic medalist stopped by.
Dave Wottle, Gold Medalist in the 800 at the 1972 Munich Games, spoke before nearly 300 at Hotel Fort Wayne. The Bowling Green State University graduate joked about his signature golf cap, his come-from-behind victory and even shared tales of running with the legend, Steve Prefontaine.
There were plenty of laughs, but Wottle made it clear that it took three C’s for him to go from average high school runner in Canton, Ohio to the top of the podium.
“I had concentration, commitment and confidence and all three were instrumental in my success,” Wottle said. “The focus mentally, the willingness to train hard and the belief that I would win all carried me.”
Wottle told of how he had forgotten about his golf cap after the 800 final as he stepped to the podium for the U.S. national anthem to be played. It made for a strange greeting from his mother afterwards.
“The first thing she said to me wasn’t Congratulations on winning the Olympics. No, it was Oh, Dave, how could you forget to take your hat off?” Wottle said.
Wottle also spoke about his humility in winning, even as he was still only a college student. Did it make for a heroic celebration when he returned to campus?
“No, in fact, I wasn’t even the best runner on my team. If anyone should have won the gold medal, it was Sid Sink,” Wottle said. “Sid was hurt before the (1972 Olympic Trials) and couldn’t run his best event, the steeplechase. He still placed fourth (and was an alternate) in the 5,000.”
Finally, Wottle denied that he considers himself a “forgotten champion”, missing out on the spoils of victory that typically goes with winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Within two days of his victory, the Munich Games was halted by the Arab-Israeli hostage situation and when the Games resumed, the U.S. Men’s Basketball team was robbed of victory, Mark Spitz won seven Gold Medals and Frank Shorter won the marathon.
“No, it’s all about expectations and I never expected any publicity,” Wottle said. “I hoped to win and then come home. I didn’t really think about all that other stuff.”
The FWTC recognized the area’s top high school distance runners, honoring Carroll’s Olivia Hippensteel and Concordia’s Zach Panning as the Chris Brown Award winners.
Along with age division points winners, overall points winners and Ironman/Ironwoman awards for running all points series events, the club announced the following special award winners: Three Rivers Running Company (Golden Shoe Award), Betty Nelson (Sprit of Running Award), Marcia Kirlin (Volunteer of the Year) and Dave Craker (President’s Award).