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Olympics – 1984 Los Angeles – Track – Mens 200 m Heats – ITA Pietro Mennea & CAN Desai Williams


Pietro Mennea was an Italian sprinter and politician….as he was most successful in the 200 m event….in which he won a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics….and set a world record at 19.72 seconds in September 1979. This record stood for almost 17 years….he longest duration in the event history….and it s still listed as the European record.

In 1979, Mennea placed first in the 100 meters and second in the 200 m behind Allan Wells of Great Britain in the European Cup. Later in the year, he took part in the World University Games, which were held on the high-altitude track of Mexico City. On 12 September 1979, he won the 200 meters with a time of 19.72.….which set a new world record….beating Tommie Smith’s time of 19.83 set on the same track in the 1968 Summer Olympics.  The record held for seventeen years before Michael Johnson broke it at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. To date, only nine athletes have recorded a better time over 200 meters than Mennea….as his time still stands as the current European record. He also held the low-altitude world record, 19.96, from 1980 to 1983, set in his home town of Barletta.  On 17 August 1980, Mennea became the first sprinter to break 20 seconds for the 200 meters for the third time.

Entering the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow….Mennea was a clear favorite for the Olympic gold….in part because of the United States boycott of the Moscow Olympics. In the 200 meters final, Mennea faced reigning champion Don Quarrie and 100 meter champion Allan Wells.  Mennea drew the outer most lane with Wells in lane 7 to his inside….as Wells got out to a blistering fast start and closed on Mennea within the first 50 m. They approached the straight with Wells more than a two-meter lead on Mennea with Quarrie in second and Silvio Leonard….hampered by his lane 1 draw in fourth. However, in the straight Mennea gained ground and passed Quarrie and Leonard and at the very end of the race….he just beat out Wells….winning the gold by a mere 0.02 seconds. Later in the games, he was the anchor man on the Italian bronze medal winning 4 × 400 relay team. He also competed in the 100 meters, reaching the semi-finals. He reached the finals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics men’s 200 m…..finishing in 7th place.

The other featured athlete in this video covering the 2nd round heats in the men’s 200 m is CAN Desai Williams…..who won an Olympic bronze medal in 4 x 100 meter relay in Los Angeles in 1984.  While competing at the two first World Championships where he reached the semi-finals (1983 and 1987)….he set his personal best 200 meters time with 20.29 s in 1983 and his 100 meters personal best time of 10.11…for a 6th-place finish at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

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