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Pietro Mennea

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 2
Total 3
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
SexMale
Full namePietro Paolo•Mennea
Used namePietro•Mennea
Nick/petnamesLa Freccia del Sud, La Freccia Azurra
Born28 June 1952 in Barletta, Barletta-Andria-Trani (ITA)
Died21 March 2013 in Roma, Roma (ITA)
Measurements180 cm / 73 kg
AffiliationsAVIS Barletta/Atalanta Rieti/Sisport Fiat Iveco/AC Bergamo
NOC Italy

Biography

Despite being an Olympic Champion, Pietro Mennea is probably best remembered for a race at the 1979 Universiade. Held at the high-altitude track of Mexico City, which had also hosted the 1968 Games, Mennea bettered the 200 metre world record (set at the 1968 Games by Tommie Smith to 19.72, aided by a favourable 1.8 m/s prevailing wind. His record would hold for nearly 17 years, until it was beaten by Michael Johnson at the Atlanta Olympics. His time is still among the top 10 fastest 200 metres as of January 2012. To his credit, Mennea also beat the low-altitude world record (19.96) the following year. At the Moscow Olympics, he was one of the favorites, even if the Americans had not boycotted the Games. Eventually, he won the gold by only a 0.02 margin, becoming the second Italian to win the 200 title after Livio Berruti in 1960. Earlier in his career, he had claimed three European sprint titles in the 100 (1978) and 200 (1974, 1978), as well as various titles in the Mediterranean Games and Universiade. After a short career break, he also medalled at the 1983 World Championships, in the 200 metres (bronze) and 4x100 relay (silver). After his active career, Mennea was active for the short-lived “I Democrati” party in Italy, and represented them in the European Parliament between 1999 and 2004.

A true Italian sporting legend, Mennea was awarded the Olympic order in 1997 and inducted into the Italian Athletic Federation (FIDAl) Hall of Fame. In the 1980s he was appointed Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, and Grand Official of the Republic In 2013. The Stadio dei Marmi in Roma was named in his honour and, on 12 September every year, Italian athletics celebrates Pietro Mennea Day, remembering the day in 1979 he set the world 200 metres record. A high-speed train also bears his name.

Mennea graduated four times, in political science, law, motor/sports science, and literature, and married lawyer and journalist Manuela Olivieri in 1996. After retiring from competitive athletics, Mennea wrote many essays on sports and legal topics, and practiced as a lawyer and chartered accountant. Mennea passed away in Roma at the age of 60 after suffering pancreatic cancer. In November 2020, 40 years after his Moskva Olympic victory, an Italian postage stamp was released in his honour.

Personal Bests: 100 – 10.01 (1979); 200 – 19.72 (1979); 400 – 45.87 (1977).

Results

Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1972 Summer Olympics Athletics ITA Pietro Mennea
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 3 Bronze
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy 8
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy DNS
1976 Summer Olympics Athletics ITA Pietro Mennea
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 4
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy 6
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy DNS
1980 Summer Olympics Athletics ITA Pietro Mennea
100 metres, Men (Olympic) 6 h1 r3/4
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy 3 Bronze
1984 Summer Olympics Athletics ITA Pietro Mennea
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 7
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy 4
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Italy 5
1988 Summer Olympics Athletics ITA Pietro Mennea
200 metres, Men (Olympic) 4 h6 r1/4

Other participations

Games Role NOC As
1988 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony ITA Pietro Mennea

Special Notes