The IAAF is saddened to hear that Hungary’s Laszlo Tabori, who held the 1500m world record in the 1950s, died on Wednesday (23) at the age of 86.
Born in Kosice in 1931, Tabori was part of the all-conquering Honved Budapest club. Under the guidance of legendary coach Mihaly Igloi, Tabori enjoyed a rapid rise to international success.
One of Tabori’s first big achievements came when he and training partners Istvan Rozsavolgyi, Ferenc Mikes and Sandor Iharos broke the 4x1500m world record in Budapest in 1954.
He improved significantly in 1955 and became the third man in history to run a sub-four-minute mile, clocking 3:59.0 in London on 28 May. In Oslo later that year, Tabori clocked 3:40.8 to equal the world 1500m record that had been set two months earlier by his training partner, Iharos. Denmark’s Gunnar Nielsen finished a close second to Tabori and was given the same time, meaning three men shared the world record.
Tabori set his third world record at the end of 1955 when he once again teamed up with his same three training partners, this time running in a slightly different order, to take 6.4 seconds off their own world 4x1500m record.
Hungary would have been expected to earn several medals at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne were it not for the fact that the country had just been invaded by the Soviet Union. All of the performances by the Hungarian team in Melbourne understandably suffered, but Tabori’s fourth-place finish in the 1500m and sixth-place finish in the 5000m were highly respectably in the circumstances.
Together with his coach Igloi, Tabori defected to the USA after the Olympics and continued running until 1962. He returned to the sport in 1967 as a coach and went on to work at the San Fernando Valley Track Club and the University of Southern California. Former marathon world record-holder Jacqueline Hansen was one of his most notable pupils.
In 2002, Tabori received the Fair Play Award from the International Olympic Committee for lifetime achievement and outstanding contribution to the sport.