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Steve Prefontaine (USA)

Steve Prefontaine was an iconic American distance runner who helped inspire the running boom in the early 1970's.

He died in a car crash in 1975 at the age of 24 after achieving cult status in the athletics world over a period of 7 years. Born in Coos Bay, Oregon in 1951, his junior and senior high school years were highly successful and he set a National high school record of 8.41.5 for 2 miles, one of 19 National high school records he set.

At the University of Oregon from1969 he trained under coach Bill Bowerman. An aggressive front runner, he attained such national status that he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 19. Breaking the American record for 5000m in 1972, he was selected for that event for the Olympic Games in Munich that year. In the lead until the final 150m, he was just outpaced by Lasse Viren (Finland), Mohammed Gammoudi (Tunisia) and Britain's Ian Stewart, missing the gold medal by less than 2 seconds. At 21 he was 2 years younger than anyone else in the race and his best years were to come. He set US records in every event from 2000 to 10,000m including 13.21.87 for 5000m and 27.43.6 for 10,000m.

In May 1975, on returning from a party and after dropping off his friend Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic Games marathon champion, he was killed when his car swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle and hit a rock wall. The latter is now a memorial site and each year in September, 1000 runners compete in the 10k Prefontaine Memorial Race to honour one of America's greatest sportsmen.

'Pre' was famous for his inspirational quotations and we can all learn from one of those. He said "I am going to work so hard that it will be a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I'm the only one who can win it."