MILAN: Italian athletics great Pietro Mennea, the gold medal winner in the 200m at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, has died according to ANSA news agency.
Mennea was pronounced dead in a Rome hospital on Thursday morning following a long battle with an as yet unnamed incurable disease. He was 60. A 14-time outdoor Italian champion in his preferred events of the 100m and 200m, Mennea was perhaps best known for setting a world record of 19.72sec in Mexico City in 1979 which stood for nearly two decades.
It beat the previous record set by American Tommie Smith, and remained unbeaten for 17 years - until it was bettered by another US sprint great, Michael Johnson, in 1996.
The following year Mennea went to the Moscow Olympics as the favourite for the 200m, especially given the absence of US athletes due to the American boycott to protest Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Although he only reached the semi-finals of the 100m, the Italian edged ahead of Scotland’s Allan Wells in the final metres of the home straight to take gold in the 200m.