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22 March 2013 | in Athletics, Summer Universiade

A Star of University Sport has stopped shining

Mennea clocks the World Record at the 1979 SU in Mexico

LAUSANNE/ROME - Pietro Mennea, medal winner at the Universiade on various occasions and the greatest Italian sprinter of the 20th century, passed away on 21 March at the age of 60 after a long illness.

Mennea after breaking the World Record at the 1979 SU in Mexico CityBorn in Barletta (ITA) on 28 June 1952, the Italian was one of the great figures of university sport. He participated in three Universiades (1973 in Moscow, 1975 in Rome and 1979 in Mexico City) and won 5 gold medals (3 in 200 m, 1 in 100 m and 1 in 4 x 100 m), and two bronze medals (in 100 m and 4 x 100 m). In addition, at the 1979 Universiade in Mexico City, he broke the world record on the 200 m, beaten 9 years earlier by Tommie Smith (well-known for raising his fist to protest against apartheid in South Africa and against racial segregation in the United States) at the 1968 Olympics, also held in Mexico City. His record (19.32) was to remain unbeaten for over 17 years and was eventually broken by another legend of athletics, Michael Johnson! Mennea’s record is still the European record.

Pietro Mennea, who then took up a brilliant career as a politician and a lawyer, was to offer Italy a gold medal at the OG in Moscow, boycotted by the American team. Surnamed as the “Southern Arrow”, he was the first athlete to reach four Olympic finals in a row in 200 m between 1972 and 1984.

On top of his brilliant career in athletics and his work as a lawyer, a European MP and a tax adviser, the former FISU athlete was also a lecturer and professor in physical education at the Faculty of Motion Education Sciences in the University Gabriele d’Annunzio de Chieti.


100 m

European Championships: 1st (1978, Prague), 2nd (1974, Rome)

Summer Universiade: 1st (1975, Rome), 3rd (1973, Moscow)

200 m

Olympic Games: 1st (1980, Moscow), 3rd (1972, Munich)

European Championships: 1st (1974, Rome; 1978, Prague)

World Championships: 3rd (1983, Helsinki)

Summer Universiade: 1st (1973, Moscow; 1975, Rome; 1979, Mexico City)

400 m indoor

Indoor European Championships: 1st (1978, Milan)

4x100 m

World Championships: 2nd (1983, Helsinki)

European Championships: 2nd (1974, Rome), 3rd (1971, Helsinki)

Summer Universiade: 1st (1979, Mexico City), 3rd (1973, Moscow)

4x400 m

Olympic Games: 3rd (1980, Moscow)


Personal Records

100 m: 10.01

200 m: 19.72 (world record set on 12 September 1979 in Mexico City, beaten by Michael Johnson in 19.32 on 1 August 1996 in Atlanta)


(Source: David Vandenplas, Media Dept.)