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Athletics | International

Usain Bolt © Action Images

Golden Gala dedicated to Mennea

World athletics chiefs will dedicate the Golden Gala meet in Rome this June, when sprint star Usain Bolt will compete, to Italian great Pietro Mennea, according to the IAAF on Thursday.

Mennea, the gold medal winner in the 200m at the 1980 Moscow Olympics who held the world record in the event for 17 years, died in a Rome hospital last week at the age of 60 from an as yet unnamed incurable disease.

Mennea won the 200m ahead of Jamaica's Don Quarrie when he competed in the first edition of the Golden Gala, a meeting designed to unite East and West in the wake of the American boycott of the 1980 Olympics, in 1980.

The International Athletics Federation (IAAF) said Friday "the 2013 edition of the Golden Gala – the fifth leg of the 2013 IAAF Diamond League – will be dedicated to the memory of Italian sprint legend Pietro Mennea".

With six-time Olympic champion Bolt competing in Rome for the third consecutive year, the IAAF said "the presence of the Jamaican legend will be the perfect way to remember Mennea."

A 14-time outdoor Italian champion in his preferred events of the 100m and 200m, Mennea was perhaps best known for setting a world record of 19.72sec in Mexico City in 1979 which stood for nearly two decades.

It beat the previous record set by American Tommie Smith, and stood until it was bettered by another US sprint great, Michael Johnson, in 1996.

Affectionately known as the 'Arrow of the South' Mennea announced his retirement in 1983 but soon returned to win a 200m bronze at the inaugural world athletics championships in Helsinki that same year.

A year later he became the first person to appear in a fourth consecutive 200m Olympic final, at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

He failed to make the medals and, after yet another retirement, returned to competition in time for the Seoul Games of 1988 where he failed to make the final in his fifth Olympics.

Mennea later admitted to using human growth hormone (HgH) - a product that was not then on the banned list - to aid his performances.


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