December 14th 2017

Sports / Updates

1980 Olympic 800m champion dies

Olizarenko took up athletics in 1967 and made her international debut in 1978, taking silver in the 800m at the European Championships in Prague. Less than two years later, she broke the 800m world record with 1:54.9, making her the favourite for the Olympic Games later that year.

By David JagongoTuesday, 21 Feb 2017 20:33 EAT

The 1980 Olympic 800m champion Nadezhda Olizarenko has died  at the age of 63 after a long illness, the  International Association of Athletics Federations says. IAAF says it’s saddened by the death of the two-lap runner on Friday February 17

Born in Bryansk in 1953, Olizarenko took up athletics in 1967 and made her international debut in 1978, taking silver in the 800m at the European Championships in Prague. Less than two years later, she broke the 800m world record with 1:54.9, making her the favourite for the Olympic Games later that year. 

She didn't disappoint at the Moscow Olympics, winning gold in a world record of 1:53.43 and leading a Soviet sweep of the medals. She went on to take bronze over 1500m at the same Games. Olizarenko retired from athletics after the 1980 Olympics, but returned to the sport in 1984 in a bid to retain her Olympic title. The Soviet Union, however, ultimately boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics and so Olizarenko continued in the sport.

She took silver at the 1985 European Indoor Championships and gold at the 1986 European Championships. In 1988 Olizarenko recorded a season's best of 1:56.0 – her fastest time since her world record eight years earlier – but she picked up an injury before the Olympic Games later that year and exited in the semifinals.

She continued running until 1990, but retired after the fall of the Soviet Union. She later worked as an athletics coach in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, where she lived with her husband Serhiy Olizarenko, a fellow Olympian and former steeplechase specialist. In November 2015 Olizarenko was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

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