Gunnar Nielsen (athlete)

Gunnar Nielsen
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing  Denmark
European Championships
Silver medal – second place 1954 Bern 1500 m

Niels Gunnar Nielsen (25 March 1928 – 29 May 1985) was a Danish middle distance runner who equalled the world record over both 880 yards and 1500 metres.[1][2] He represented the Østerbro-based club Københavns Idræts Forening throughout his career.[3]

Nielsen participated in three major championships - two Olympic Games and one European Championships. He made his international breakthrough at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, where he finished fourth in the 800 metres - finishing with exactly the same time, 1:49.7, as the bronze medal winner, Heinz Ulzheimer.[4] At the 1954 European Championships in Bern, Nielsen set a new Danish record of 3:44.4 in the final of the 1500 metres, in which he finished second behind Roger Bannister.[5]

Nielsen was Denmark's greatest male athlete during the 1950s and his ability to draw large crowds meant that he was much in demand by his country's promoters.[6] His hectic schedule eventually took its toll on his health, and, with his times strongly affected by illness and exhaustion, Nielsen announced in September 1956 that he would retire after the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.[6] Though he won his 800 metres heat in a time of 1:51.2, Nielsen chose not to run the semi-final and instead chose to focus on the 1500 metres.[7] In what proved to be the final race of his career, Nielsen finished the 1500 metres final in tenth place, over four seconds behind the winner, Ronnie Delany.[8]

Following his athletic career Nielsen worked as a typographer for Det Berlingske Officin.[9]


  1. ^ "Index of Who's Who in Running". Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  2. ^ "World Record Progression - 1,500 m. men". Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Historie" (in Danish). Københavns Idræts Forening. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Athletics at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Games: Men's 800 metres Final". Sports Reference. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  5. ^ "European Championships - Bern 1954". Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Nielsen to Quit Track After 1956 Olympic Meet". St. Petersburg Times. 29 September 1956. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Gunnar Nielsen". Sports Reference. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Athletics at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Games: Men's 1,500 metres Final". Sports Reference. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
  9. ^ Marco de los Reyes (28 May 2005). "Danmarks store løber". Berlingske Tidende. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
Preceded by
United States Mal Whitfield
Men's 880 yards World Record Holder
30 September 1954 – 26 March 1955
Succeeded by
United States Lonnie Spurrier
Preceded by
Australia John Landy
Men's 1500 metres World Record Holder
6 September 1955 – 3 August 1956
Succeeded by
Hungary István Rózsavölgyi