When Ralph Doubell won the Olympic 800 metres championship in Mexico City in 1968 he became the first Australian to win over that distance since Edwin Flack 72 years before. The time he ran, 1:44.4, equalled the 1962 world record set by New Zealand’s Peter Snell; it still stands as the fastest by an Australian. Doubell was a comparatively late starter in athletics, having run his first half-mile at the age of 17 at Melbourne High School. He had a relatively short international career, but peaked at exactly the right time. He won the 800m at the World University Games in Tokyo in 1967, and followed that with a successful indoor circuit season in the United States. Even so, he was not regarded as a major threat in the Olympics, where the favourite for his event was Wilson Kiprugut, from Kenya.
Doubell showed huge mental toughness during his passage to glory in Mexico City. By the final he and his coach, Franz Stampfl, were convinced it would be a race between the Kenyan and the Australian - a classic match between a front runner and a kicker. For Doubell the race went exactly to plan - Kiprugut went out early, aiming to lead all the way. Doubell kept within contact, although around seven metres behind, and swept past in the last 50 metres. “The moment was mine,” he said later, “the ultimate high.” That memorable moment made Doubell just the third Australian male ever to win an Olympic gold medal on the track - after Flack and Herb Elliott. Nobody has since joined the trio.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian