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Former 200m record holder Mennea dies at 60

 FILE - This Sept. 12, 1979 file photo shows Pietro Mennea of Italy running the 200-meters dash event at the World University Games in Mexico City, wh...
 FILE - In this July 28, 1980 file photo, Italy's Pietro Mennea, left, claims his victory and gold medal finish by raising his hands and yelling just ...

Italy Obit Mennea

FILE - This Sept. 12, 1979 file photo shows Pietro Mennea of Italy running the 200-meters dash event at the World University Games in Mexico City, wh...

Italy Obit Mennea

FILE - In this July 28, 1980 file photo, Italy's Pietro Mennea, left, claims his victory and gold medal finish by raising his hands and yelling just ...

Pietro Mennea, an Olympic sprint champion from Italy who held the world record in the 200 meters for 17 years, died Thursday. He was 60.
The Italian Olympic Committee said Mennea died in a Rome clinic. No cause of death was given.
Mennea won gold in the 200 and bronze in the 4x400 relay at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, plus a bronze in the 200 at the 1972 Munich Games.
Mennea set the 200 world record record of 19.72 seconds on Sept. 12, 1979, at the World University Games at high altitude in Mexico City. He broke Tommie Smith's record of 19.83, set on the same track at the 1968 Olympics.
Mennea's record stood until Michael Johnson ran 19.66 on June 23, 1996, at the U.S. Olympic trials. Johnson lowered the mark to 19.32 at the Atlanta Olympics later that year.
"I never thought for a minute it would last that long," Mennea said in a 1996 interview with The Associated Press. "I didn't even think at the time I had run that fast."
Usain Bolt holds the current 200 record of 19.19, set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
Mennea also won four golds at European championships _ three outdoor and one indoor _ plus a silver and a bronze at world championships. He still holds the European and Italian records in the 200.
International Olympic Committee member Franco Carraro called Mennea "among the greatest of all time in world athletics."
"He had a complex personality but you had to like him for his generosity and for the love of the sport he had," Carraro said. "He was a fantastic representative of clean athletics and he held up the honor of Italian sports."
CONI president Giovanni Malago announced that Mennea's body would lie in state at Olympic committee headquarters Friday and that a minute of silence will be held at all sports events in the country through Sunday. The funeral will be held Saturday in Rome.
IOC president Jacques Rogge wrote in a letter of condolence to Malago that Mennea's passing "leaves a huge void in the entire Olympic movement.
"He was a prestigious athlete and also a great sports manager," Rogge said.
Italy's football team planned to wear black armbands for Thursday's friendly against Brazil in Geneva, with a minute of silence to be observed.
It will mark only the third time that someone lies in state at CONI, after former CONI president Giulio Onesti, who died in 1981, and former International Athletics Federation president Primo Nebiolo, who died in 1999.
"Pietro Mennea represents something beyond a symbol. He's a legend," Malago said. "He was a normal man, not a superman, but he was able to pull off feats that became part of history. It's an immense loss."
"I knew about his illness but it was kept quiet as much as possible, which goes along with what type of person he was," Malago said.
After his athletics career, Mennea worked as a lawyer, sports agent and as a member of the European Parliament. He didn't spend much time reminiscing about his days as a sprinter, at one point publishing a book on sports law.
"It would have been easier for me to write about how to run the 200 meters, but I have moved on," he said in the 1996 interview.
More recently, Mennea was an outspoken critic of Rome's plans to bid for the 2020 Olympics, before Premier Mario Monti withdrew government support
"We're a nation devastated by a scary economic crisis. How could we think about proposing something like this now?" Mennea said in an interview with Corriere della Sera early last year. "Zero-cost Olympics don't exist. The real priorities of the country lie elsewhere."
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Associated Press writer Victor Simpson contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-01 20:32 GMT+08:00