Mar 21, 2013, 2:29 PM EDT
Former 200m world record holder Pietro Mennea of Italy died in a Rome clinic Thursday of an unnamed incurable disease. He was 60-years-old.
Mennea ran 19.72 seconds to break American Tommie Smith’s eleven-year old record in 1979 during the lead up to the Moscow Games, in which Mannea won gold in the 200m and bronze in the 4x400m relay. His record stood for 17 years until Michael Johnson ran 19.66 in 1996.
“I never thought for a minute it would last that long,” Mennea told the Associated Press after Johnson finally broke his record before the Atlanta Games. “I didn’t even think at the time I had run that fast.”
Mennea eventually competed in four 200m Olympic finals between 1972 and 1984 – the first person to ever do so – before retiring after missing the event finals at the Seoul Games in 1988.
CONI president Giovanni Malago said Mennea will be laid in state at Olympic Committee headquarters and that a moment of silence will be observed at every sporting event in Italy though this Sunday.
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