Alberto Juantorena

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Alberto Juantorena
Alberto Juantorena 1976 Olympics.jpg
Juantorena winning the 800 m final at the 1976 Olympics
Personal information
Full nameAlberto Juantorena Danger [1]
Nickname(s)El Caballo
El elegante de las pistas [2]
Born (1950-12-03) 3 December 1950 (age 70) [1]
Santiago de Cuba [1]
Height190 cm (6 ft 3 in) [2]
Weight84 kg (185 lb) [2]
Sport Athletics
Event(s)400 m, 800 m
Coached byZygmunt Zabierzowski
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)400 m – 44.26 (1976)
800 m – 1:43.44 (1977) [2] [3]
Updated on 6 June 2015.

Alberto Juantorena (born 3 December 1950) [4] is a Cuban former runner. He is the only athlete to win both the 400 and 800 m Olympic titles, which he achieved in 1976. He was ranked as world's best runner in the 400 m in 1974 and 1976–1978, and in the 800 m in 1976–77, and was chosen as the Track & Field News Athlete of the Year in 1976 and 1977. [2]



Early sports activities

As a 188 cm (6 ft 2 in) 14-year-old, Juantorena was first considered a potential star at basketball; he was sent to a state basketball school, [5] and was a member of the national team. [1] Meanwhile, he had been a regional high-school champion at 800 and 1500 meters. [6] His running talent was discovered by a Polish track coach, Zygmunt Zabierzowski, who convinced him to start running seriously. Juantorena was ready for the change because as he states himself he was a 'bad' basketball player and his idol was the Cuban sprinter Enrique Figuerola. [7] Only a year later, Juantorena reached semifinals of the 400 m event at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Juantorena proceeded to win a gold medal at the 1973 World University Games and a silver at the 1975 Pan American Games, both in the 400 meters. He was unbeaten in 1973 and 1974, but underwent two operations on his foot in 1975. [1] He only seriously took up running the 800 meters in 1976, so few thought he was a candidate for the Olympic gold that year. His coach, Zabierzowski, had initially tricked him in to trying an 800 m race by convincing him the other runners needed a pacemaker. [8]

Olympics 1976

Juantorena made it to the 800m Olympic final, and led the field for most of the race, eventually winning in a world record time of 1:43.50. [9] He was the first non-English speaking athlete to win Olympic gold in this event. Three days later, he also won the 400 meter final, setting a low-altitude world record at 44.26. [10] By winning the 400 meters, he became the first athlete since Paul Pilgrim at the 1906 Intercalated Games to do such a double at an Olympic sports event, and was the only man to do so at an officially recognized Olympics. [5] [11]

Subsequent athletics career

In 1977, he set another world record in the 800, running 1:43.44 in Sofia at the World University Games. [2] He also won both the 400 m and 800 m at the 1977 IAAF World Cup. [12] The 400 m race was mired in controversy when the race was re-run a day after the initial race, in which Juantorena finished third, because Juantorena lodged a successful protest that his slow start had been due to not being able to hear the starter's gun. [13] The latter race featured an epic duel with his great rival Kenya's Mike Boit, a duel that did not happen at the previous year's Olympics because of the African countries boycott.

Juantorena, now known at home as El Caballo (the horse), [1] continued his career, although injuries meant he would never reach the same level as in Montreal. Juantorena had been born with flat feet that caused feet and back problems, and he had to have corrective surgery in 1977. [14] In 1978 he was unbeaten at the 400 m, but suffered his first ever defeat at 800 meters. [14] Injuries, particularly hamstring injuries, hampered his training and racing leading up to the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where he just missed out on a medal in the 400 meters, placing fourth.

At the 1983 World Championships, his last international appearance in a major event, he broke his foot and tore ligaments when he stepped on the inside of the track after qualifying in the first round of the 800 m. [15] He returned to training with a view to competing in the 1984 Summer Olympics. However the 1984 Summer Olympics boycott ended his last chance for competing at Olympics. [16] Instead, he took part in the Friendship Games, the alternative to the official Olympics for the Eastern bloc countries, where he shared the gold medal in the 800 m with Ryszard Ostrowski.

Juantorena at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics Osaka07 D9A Alberto Juantorena.jpg
Juantorena at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics

After retirement

After retirement from athletics in 1984, Juantorena has served in many official capacities, including as the Vice President of the National Institute for Sports, Physical Education and Recreation for Cuba, [5] Vice Minister for Sport of Cuba, and Vice-President, later Senior Vice-President of the Cuban Olympic Committee. He is a member of the World Athletics Council, and has also served as an Athletes' Commission Chairman and Grand Prix Commission Member. [17]

Personal life

Juantorena is married to Yria, a former gymnast; [5] they have five children. [17] His nephew Osmany Juantorena is a professional volleyball player. [2]

International competitions

Representing Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba
1972 Olympic Games Munich, West Germany 11th (sf)400 m 46.07
1973 Central American and Caribbean Championships Maracaibo, Venezuela 1st400 m 46.4
2nd4 × 400 m relay 3:10.1
Universiade Moscow, Soviet Union 1st400 m 45.36
1974 Central American and Caribbean Games Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 1st400 m45.52
1st4 × 400 m relay3:06.36
1975 Pan American Games Mexico City, Mexico 2nd400 m 44.80
2nd4 × 400 m relay 3:02.82
1976 Olympic Games Montreal, Canada 1st400 m 44.26
1st800 m 1:43.50 (WR)
7th4 × 400 m relay 3:03.81
1977 Central American and Caribbean Championships Xalapa, Mexico 2nd400 m45.67
1st4 × 400 m relay3:09.24
Universiade Sofia, Bulgaria 1st800 m 1:43.44 (WR)
World Cup Düsseldorf, West Germany 1st400 m 45.36 1
1st800 m 1:44.04 1
3rd4 × 400 m relay 3:02.77 1
1978 Central American and Caribbean Games Medellín, Colombia 1st400 m44.27
1st800 m1:47.23
3rd4 × 400 m relay3:05.57
1979 Pan American Games San Juan, Puerto Rico 2nd400 m 45.24
2nd800 m 1:46.4
3rd4 × 400 m relay 3:06.3
1980 Olympic Games Moscow, Soviet Union 4th400 m 45.09
1981 Central American and Caribbean Championships Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 1st800 m1:47.59
1982 Central American and Caribbean Games Havana, Cuba 1st800 m1:45.15
1st4 × 400 m relay3:03.59
1983 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 28th (h)800 m 1:48.40 2
1984 Friendship Games Moscow, Soviet Union 1st800 m 1:45.68
3rd4 × 400 m relay 3:04.76

1Representing the Americas
2Did not start in the semifinals


Juantorena was ranked among the best in the world in both the 400 and 800 m sprint events over the incredible spread of 10 seasons from 1973 to 1982, according to the votes of the experts of Track & Field News . [18] [19]

World Rankings
Year400 m800 m

Best performances

400 meters
YearResultWorld rankLocationDate
1973 [20] 45.366thMoscow18 Aug
1974 [21] 44.71stTurin24 Jul
1975 [22] 44.802ndMexico City18 Oct
1976 [23] 44.261stMontreal29 Jul
1977 [24] 44.651stHavana13 Sep
1978 [25] 44.271stMedellin16 Jul
1979 [26] 45.2410thSan Juan12 Jul
1980 [27] 45.096thMoscow30 Jul
198245.5125thKoblenz25 Aug
800 meters
YearResultWorld rankLocationDate
1976 [28] 1.43.501stMontreal25 Jul
1977 [29] 1.43.441stSofia21 Aug
1978 [30] 1.44.384thCologne22 Jun
1979 [31] 1.46.424thSan Juan9 Jul
19811.46.020thHavana4 Jul
19821.45.1514thHavana11 Aug
19831.45.0418thHavana17 Jun
19841.44.8822ndFlorence13 Jun

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Alberto Juantorena". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Alberto Juantorena". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020.
  3. Alberto Juantorena.
  4. Various dates have been given for Juantorena's birth, with 3 December 1950 (The International Who's Who 2004 (Europa Publications) and ) or 21 November 1950 (Historical Dictionary of Track and Field (Scarecrow Press, 2012), Top Distance Runners of the Century (Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2002)) and even 11 November 1950 (Who's Who in the 1984 Olympics (Pelham Books, 1984))
  5. 1 2 3 4 Robb, Sharon (21 June 1980) "Treasure Island Cuba Doesn't Just Love Sports Heroes. It Worships Them". SunSentinel.
  6. Sandrock, p. 206
  7. Hill, Garry (November 1977). "Archived copy" (PDF). Track and Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. Sandrock, p. 207
  9. 'Alberto Juantorena 1976 Olympics 800' on YouTube
  10. 'Legendary: El Caballo Romps' on YouTube
  11. Alberto Juantorena. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  12. Morre, K. (12 September 1977) "The Cup Turned Into a Coup", Sports Illustrated.
  13. '1977 World Cup 400 m – men' on YouTube
  14. 1 2 Sandrock, p. 217
  15. '1983 IAAF World Championship Men's 800 Meter heat' on YouTube
  16. Sandrock, p. 218
  17. 1 2 IAAF Council Member Biography. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  18. "World Rankings Index—Men's 400 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News . Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  19. "World Rankings Index—Men's 800 meters" (PDF). Track and Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  20. 1973 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  21. 1974 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  22. 1975 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  23. 1976 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  24. 1977 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  25. 1978 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  26. 1979 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  27. 1980 Year Rankings at 400m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  28. 1976 Year Rankings at 800m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  29. 1977 Year Rankings at 800m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  30. 1978 Year Rankings at 800m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  31. 1979 Year Rankings at 800m. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.

Cited sources

Preceded by
Flag of Italy.svg Marcello Fiasconaro
Men's 800 m World Record Holder
1976-07-16 – 1979-07-05
Succeeded by
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Sebastian Coe
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Flag of Brazil.svg João Carlos de Oliveira
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya.svg Henry Rono
Preceded by
Flag of New Zealand.svg John Walker
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Flag of Kenya.svg Henry Rono