Alberto Juantorena

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]

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 69)[1]
Santiago de Cuba[1]
Height190 cm (6 ft 3 in)[2]
Weight84 kg (185 lb)[2]
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.


Early sports activitiesEdit

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 1976Edit

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 careerEdit

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.

After retirementEdit

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 IAAF Council, and has also served as an Athletes' Commission Chairman and Grand Prix Commission Member.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Juantorena is married to Yria, a former gymnast;[5] they have five children.[17] His nephew Osmany Juantorena is a professional volleyball player.[2] Juantorena still daily runs about 10 kilometers and participates in marathons.[5]


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
Year 400 m 800 m
1973 3rd
1974 1st
1975 4th
1976 1st 1st
1977 1st 1st
1978 1st 6th
1979 5th
1980 10th
1982 2nd

Best performancesEdit

400 meters
Year Result World rank Location Date
1973[20] 45.36 6th Moscow 18 Aug
1974[21] 44.7 1st Turin 24 Jul
1975[22] 44.80 2nd Mexico City 18 Oct
1976[23] 44.26 1st Montreal 29 Jul
1977[24] 44.65 1st Havana 13 Sep
1978[25] 44.27 1st Medellin 16 Jul
1979[26] 45.24 10th San Juan 12 Jul
1980[27] 45.09 6th Moscow 30 Jul
1982 45.51 25th Koblenz 25 Aug
800 meters
Year Result World rank Location Date
1976[28] 1.43.50 1st Montreal 25 Jul
1977[29] 1.43.44 1st Sofia 21 Aug
1978[30] 1.44.38 4th Cologne 22 Jun
1979[31] 1.46.4 24th San Juan 9 Jul
1981 1.46.0 20th Havana 4 Jul
1982 1.45.15 14th Havana 11 Aug
1983 1.45.04 18th Havana 17 Jun
1984 1.44.88 22nd Florence 13 Jun

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Alberto Juantorena". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Alberto Juantorena". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC.
  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 [1]) 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. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ a b Sandrock, p. 217
  15. ^ '1983 IAAF World Championship Men's 800 Meter heat' on YouTube
  16. ^ Sandrock, p. 218
  17. ^ a b 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 sourcesEdit

  • Sandrock, Michael (1996) Running with the Legends. Human Kinetics. ISBN 0873224930.

External linksEdit

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

Succeeded by
  Henry Rono
Preceded by
  John Walker
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
  Henry Rono