Jack Lovelock

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Jack Lovelock
Jack Lovelock 1936b.jpg
Lovelock at the 1936 Olympics
Personal information
Nationality New Zealand
Born (1910-01-05)5 January 1910
Crushington, New Zealand
Died 28 December 1949(1949-12-28) (aged 39)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Height 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight 61 kg (134 lb)
Sport Running
Event(s) 1500 m, mile
Club University of Oxford
Achilles Club
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 1500 m – 3:47.8 (1936)
Mile – 4:07.6 (1933)[1][2]

Dr. John "Jack" Edward Lovelock, MB ChB, (5 January 1910 – 28 December 1949) was a New Zealand athlete, and the 1936 Olympic champion in the 1500 metres.

Early life

Lovelock was born in the town of Crushington (near Reefton) as the son of English immigrants. From his early days at school he participated and excelled in fields beyond athletics. At Fairlie School (1919–23) he was dux of the primary school, represented the school in rugby, competed in swimming and athletics, and was a prefect. At Timaru Boys' High School, which he attended as a boarder from 1924, he set school athletics records but was also involved in nearly every area of school life. In 1928, his final year, Lovelock was school dux, head prefect, and won the school's boxing championship cup. The following year he went to University of Otago to study medicine. Lovelock showed a talent for sports while at the university, and competed for the university team in the New Zealand 1-mile (1.6 km) championships. In 1931 he became a Rhodes Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford from 1931 to 1934. He graduated as a medical practitioner.

Sports career

In 1932—by then holder of the British Empire record for the mile—Lovelock competed in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and placed 7th in the final of the 1500 metres event.

The following year, he set a world record of 4:07.6 in the mile when running at Princeton against its emerging champion Bill Bonthron. Later, in September, he represented New Zealand in the first World Student Games where he renewed his rivalry with the 1500m champion from Los Angeles in 1932, Luigi Beccali. Beccali edged Lovelock in the final and equalled the world record for the event. In 1934 Lovelock won the gold medal in the mile at the British Empire Games. He also lost some races, and believed that he could only make one supreme effort in a season.

The highlight of Lovelock's career came in 1936, when he won the gold medal in the 1500 m at the Berlin Olympics, setting a world record in the final (3:47.8). Lovelock had plotted ever since his defeat at Los Angeles and developed a revolutionary tactic. The race is regarded as one of the finest 1500 m Olympic finals and included one of the finest fields assembled. The final was a culmination of the first great era of mile running from 1932–36 in which the world records for the 1500m and mile were broken several times. Apart from Lovelock and the American mile world record holder Glenn Cunningham who broke Lovelock's record a year later in 1934, also at Princeton, Bonthron, the 1932 Olympic Games 1500m champion at Los Angeles, Luigi Beccali and the emerging English champion Sydney Wooderson raced in Berlin. Bonthron, who held the world 1500m record, failed to make the US team, while Wooderson was found to have a fracture in his ankle and missed the final. The silver medalist in Los Angeles, John 'Jerry' Cornes also raced in Berlin along with the Swedish champion Erik Ny and the outstanding Canadian athlete Phil Edwards and another American Gene Venzke, who had been regarded as the favourite for the 1932 title until injury denied him a place in the US team. In the final, Lovelock beat Glenn Cunningham, who came in second, by making the unprecedented break from 300 m out. Lovelock had been regarded as a sprinter in the home straight but cleverly disguised his plan and caught his opponents napping with a brilliantly-timed move. Cunningham, who also broke the world record in the race, was considered by many to be the greatest American miler of all time. Beccali was third.

Lovelock, who was the captain of the New Zealand Olympic team, raced once more for the British Commonwealth after Berlin and his last race was back at Princeton en route to a Government-sponsored trip to New Zealand where he was beaten by another of the Olympic finalists Archie San Romani. Lovelock maintained his interest in athletics until at least the outbreak of the Second World War as a newspaper contributor.

Later life

Lovelock was a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II. He married Cynthia James in 1945 and had two daughters. A year later, he began working at Manhattan Hospital in New York City. On 28 December 1949, he had telephoned his wife from work to inform her that he was coming home early because he was not feeling well. He was waiting at the Church Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, New York, when he fell onto the tracks, probably as a result of one of the dizziness attacks to which he was subject after being thrown from a horse in 1940. He was then killed by an oncoming train.[3][4][5]

Posthumous commemorations

In 1990 the New Zealand post office issued a set of stamps featuring Lovelock along with George Nepia.[6]

The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage refers to a "Lovelock legend", and describes him as having "captured the imagination of New Zealanders and others. Streets, playing fields and sports bars have been named after him. He has inspired books, stamps, a stage play and a film. In 2002 a statue was erected at Timaru Boys High, where much of the memorabilia related to him is stored."[7]

His Victory Oak from the 1936 Olympics was planted at Timaru Boys' High School in New Zealand, and is considered a nationally protected landmark.[1]


  • The Legend of Lovelock by Norman Harris, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, New Zealand, 1964
  • Lovelock: New Zealand's Olympic gold miler by Christopher Tobin, Dunedin, 1984
  • Jack Lovelock - Athlete & Doctor by Dr Graeme Woodfield, Wellington, 2007
  • As If Running on Air: The Journals of Jack Lovelock edited by David Colquhoun, Wellington 2008
  • Conquerors of Time by Lynn McConnell, London, 2009
  • Lovelock by James McNeish


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jack Lovelock. sports-reference.com
  2. Jack Lovelock. trackfield.brinkster.net
  3. *Megede, Ekkehard zur (1970) Die Geschichte der olympischen Leichtathletik - Band 1: 1896-1936 Verlag Bartels & Wernitz KG
  4. Matthews, Peter a.o. (1993) The Guinness International Who's Who of Sport Guinness Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-85112-980-3
  5. Wallechinsky, David; Loucky, Jaime (2012). The Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 Edition. London: Aurum Press. p. 104. ISBN 978 1 84513 695 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Stanley Gibbons stamp numbers 1559, 1560 and MS1561
  7. "Jack Lovelock", New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage

External links

Preceded by
United States Bill Bonthron
Men's 1,500m World Record Holder
6 August 1936 – 10 August 1941
Succeeded by
Sweden Gunder Hägg
Preceded by
France Jules Ladoumègue
Men's Mile World Record Holder
15 July 1933 – 16 June 1934
Succeeded by
United States Glenn Cunningham