Olympic Fridays: Remembering Steve “Pre” Prefontaine
Every Friday leading up to the London Games I will be posting about past U.S. Olympians who created lasting legacies. Today, I remember the great Oregon distance runner Steve Prefontaine, otherwise known as “Pre”. Known for his tenacious work ethic, selfless attidude, and natural talent, Pre transformed the landscape of American distance running and is also credited for sparking the ”running boom” that hit America in the 1970s. Leading up to the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Pre held every American track record from the 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters. He dominated at the college level while at the University of Oregon under the tutelage of coach Bob Bowerman. Pre’s signature race came at the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials when he set the 5,000 meter record, a record that stood until Galen Rupp broke it in 2012.
Pre’s racing strategy reflected his champion attitude and work ethic. He liked to get out to a head start and lead the pack from start to finish. Unfortunately, Pre fell short in his quest for Munich Olympic gold, as he finished fourth in the 5,000 meters. Despite being disappointed, Pre had his sights firmly set on the 1976 games. But he would never make it. Tragically, Pre died in a car crash in May of 1975, his death rocking the American public. Although his life was cut short far too early, Pre’s legacy continues to live on. Every year, the “Prefontaine Classic” is held at Oregon’s track and field stadium and is considered one of the premier invitationals in the world. Below are a collection of photos taken of Pre from his freshman year at Oregon through the Munich Games