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Grete Waitz

Competes In 1976 Olympics

In 1976, Waitz returned to the Olympics, but this time she knew what to expect and trained more seriously. In fact, she had not missed a day of training for more than two years, and she was expected to win a medal. However, there was no women's 3,000-meter race, and she had to enter the 1,500 meters, the farthest distance women were allowed to run in the Olympics at the time. Although she made it to the semifinals, she placed eighth—not good enough to make it to the finals, even though she had set a personal best and Scandinavian record in the 1,500.

Waitz was attacked in the Norwegian press, and she became angry: she had trained twice a day for two years, despite having a full-time job as a teacher and spending two hours each day commuting to her work. According to Sandrock, she said, "I became a victim of the Norwegian expression, 'A silver medal is a defeat'—if you don't win, you lose." In 1977, Waitz decided in the future to run without the support of the Norwegian Federation scholarship.

Waitz won world cross-country titles in 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1983. During this time, she worked as a schoolteacher, training during her time off. In the winter, she switched to cross-country skiing, which kept her in shape while giving her legs a break from running. At one point, according to Sandrock, she was running during the winter but could find only a quarter-mile of plowed road to run on. Resolutely, she ran back and forth on it for eight miles.

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