Q&A #17

Hall of Fame Profile – Alberto Juantorena (Cuba)

IAAF Hall of Fame - Alberto Juantorena (CUB)
IAAF Hall of Fame - Alberto Juantorena (CUB) (Getty Images)
Alberto Juantorena has a special place in Olympic history as the only man in the IAAF era to win both the 400m and 800m at the same Games, a feat he achieved in 1976.

He went to Montreal as the favourite for the shorter distance after going unbeaten over one lap of the track in 1973 and 1974; he had also recovered very well from a foot operation in 1975.

However, first he had the 800m to deal with, a distance at which he only started tackling seriously earlier in 1976 after his coach had encouraged him to extend his range as a way of improving his endurance for the 400m.

Being a relative novice at the event proved to be no handicap though as his giant stride - Juantorena is 1.90m tall - devoured the track in the final and he crossed the line in a World record of 1:43.50.

Four days later, he won the 400m gold medal in 44.26, which at the time was the fastest non-altitude assisted performance.

The following year, Juantorena reduced his 800m World record to 1:43.44 when winning at the World Student Games in Sofia.

He then went on to achieve the same double he had done at the Olympics when winning the 400m and 800m at both the inaugural IAAF World Cup in Düsseldorf and also at the 1978 Central American and Caribbean Games. 

Juantorena is still a very familiar figure at major athletics meetings as he is the President of the Cuban athletics federation and also a member of the IAAF Council.