During my prime running years, Pietro Mennea’s 200m WR was the holy grail. 19.72 was the 200m WR standard for 17 years.
In fact, Pietro Mennea won the 200m 1980 Olympics in the Moscow Boycotted Olympics. He also won the Bronze medal at 1972 Munich Olympics at the same distance. Mennea competed in
4 5 Olympics (72-76-80-84-88).
When Mike Marsh eased up in the 1992 Barcelona 200m SF in 19.73, people (including Marsh) were kicking themselves asking why didn’t he run right through.
No matter.. Michael Johnson would break that longstanding WR at the 1996 Olympic Trials, then demolish it with a 19.32.
Of course, Usain Bolt would break that record 12 years later with his 19.30 then 19.19 one year later.
But before Pietro Mennea, Italy had another 200m sprint champion.
Does the name Livio Berruti ring a bell?
Who the heck is Livio Berruti?
The photo shows the 1960 Rome medal winners of the 200 meters: Livio Berruti (Italy) 20.5, Lester Carney (USA) 20.6 and Abdul Seye (France) 20.7
Berruti was also famous for his black sunglasses and white socks… Tommie Smith would also make the black sunglasses “part of his uniform”.
He ran 20.5 in the heats which equalled the World Record (ERW), followed by another 20.5 to win the Gold medal. He came 4th in the 4x00m relay.
You can just imagine the home town crowd going nuts when he won. This is Italy, you know.
Berruti also made two more Olympic appearances, in 1964 and 1968. On both occasions, he reached the final of the 4 x 100 m relay, and also placed 5th in the 200m final of 1964.
But his pinnacle will always be the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Another juicy tidbit of gossip that emerged from Rome was this picture on the left.
Livio Berruti and Wilma Rudolf? It is well known that Mohamed Ali (then Cassius Clay) tried to flirt with the great Wilma Rudolf.
After all, you have to let go some of that excess energy after 11 months of hard training?
But you have to give credit to Italian men…
If you want to read more about the 1960 Rome Olympics, then read David Maraniss’ book: Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World