Olympic Games Gold Medalist Athlete. A sprinter, he set a world record in the 200 meters race, which he held for seventeen years from 1979 to 1996. Born in Barletta, Italy, he attended the Istituto Superiore di Educazione Fisica and graduated at the University of Bari in political science, law, physical education and literature. He began his long international athletics career in 1971, when he made his debut at the European Athletics Championships with a 3th place in the 4x100 Relay and a 6th place in the 200 meters race. Mennea made his Olympic debut to 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, where he reached the final of the 200 meters race. He crossed the line in third place, behind of the Soviet athlete Valery Borzov and of the American athlete Larry Black. After this success he reached other three Olympic finals in the same specialty. In the European Championship of 1974, he won Gold in the 200 meters race in front of his home crowd in Rome and finished second in the 100 meters and in the Relay race. After some poor performances, he participated to 1976 Summer Olympic in Montreal, Canada, managing to qualify for the final of the 200 meters but where he finished 4th. In 1978 in Prague, he successfully defended his European title of the 200 meters and in the same year also won the gold medal in the 400 meters race to the European Athletics Indoor Championships. In 1979, Mennea took part in the World University Games in Mexico City, Mexico, where won a Gold setting a world record (19:72), lasted for seventeen years. As world record holder, he was among the favorites for the gold medal at the 1980 Summer Olympic in Moscow, Soviet Union and during the final of the 200 meters race, he faced the defending champion Don Quarrie winning the gold medal for two hundredths of a second. He also won a bronze medal in the 4x100 Relay. Later, he participated in the first edition of the World Athletics Championships which took place in Helsinki in 1983 where he won the bronze medal in the 200 meters and a Silver in the 4x100 Relay. A year later, he participated at his fourth consecutive Olympic final of the 200 meters at the 1988 Summer Olympic in Seoul, South Korea, becoming the first athlete at the world to accomplish that Olympic record. In this edition of the Games was ensign bearer of the Italian team during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. He died at the age of sixty due to a serious illness.
Bio by: Ruggero