Marcello Fiasconaro, 50 years ago the 800m world record -

Marcello Fiasconaro, 50 years ago the 800m world record -

Of Marco Bonarrigo

On 27 June 1973 Marcello Fiasconaro at the Milan Arena became the first man under 1'44'' over the 800 metres. still the Italian record, today he would fight for the podium in many international meetings

That was exactly 50 years ago. Spiked shoes, a pair of light blue leather Adistar Avantis, the then clay track of the Milan Arena and a blue tank top with a tricolor shield on the chest, one size larger than necessary and worn inside out. So it was that on June 27, 1973, shortly after ten o'clock on a beautiful early summer evening, Marcello Fiasconaro, 24 years oldcrumbled the 800m world record, one of the noblest distances in athletics. Running in 1'43”7 he beat Peter Snell by six tenths of a second and became the first man to break the 1'44” barrier.

The record lasted for three years, until the advent of another giant of the track, Alberto Juantorena, who first beat one and then two tenths in Fiasconaro's time. In the following 50 years, Marcello's record was touched up only eight times and by only three athletes: Sebastian Coe, Wilson Kipketer and David Rudisha who has held it for eleven years thanks to the spatial and at the moment unattainable 1'40"91 run at the London Games .

But Fiasconaro's remains, after 50 years, the oldest Italian record of athletics and the only one established in the seventies still standing: only Andrea Longo in 2000 managed to run in 1'43”74 with electronic timing but the two times are considered equivalent by the rules of Italian athletics. With such a performance, Fiasconaro could easily fight for the podium in most of today's international races.

The fascinating adventure of Fiasconaro (who is now 74 years old).: the middle-distance runner was born in Cape Town to a father from Palermo (Gregorio, musician, prisoner of war who remained in the country after being released) and a South African mother, Mabel Marie. That of dedicating oneself to rugby as a kid he was an obligatory choice in a nation where discipline was king but during Villagers Club training it turned out that this tall, thin boy (1.85 for 75 kilos) had excellent sustained speed skills. Hence the choice of athletics, a sport in which after some good results in Cape Town Marcello was invited to compete in Italy thanks to the intercession of the blue discus thrower Carmelo Rado, quickly obtaining our passport. The rumor that a somewhat naive phenomenon, with uncertain Italian, had landed in the blue athletics, spread rapidly: national record of the 400 meters (45"7), indoor world record at the Genoa sports hall (46"1) in March from 1972, with a look (long hair, mustache and oversized sideburns) that drove the fans crazy.

His career was short and dazzling: in 1971 silver in the 800 meters and bronze in the 4x400 at the European Championships in Helsinki, in 1972 the already mentioned indoor world championship of 400 meters (at the time the double 400/800 was common, Juantorena took the title Olympic 1976 in both specialties), in 1973 the fabulous record at the Milan Arena. Analyzing that race, the technicians are still amazed today. Lacking in tactical skills, Fiasconaro set up the race as a prolonged speed test, taking the lead from the first meter and asphyxiating the very favorite Josef Plachy.

Marcello's powerful physiqueassisted by unfortunately fragile tendons, he began to lose his shots the following year: Fiasconaro was unable to repeat himself on the same levels, he skipped the 1976 Montreal Games and ended his career on the track that year (except for a brief return in 1977) by starting to play rugby in Cus Milano where he stayed for a couple of seasons before giving in to the call of his beloved South Africa where he moved permanently to work in the trade. His last return to Italy ten years ago, for the fortieth anniversary of the record. His figure of light-hearted amateur, the naive strength that he was able to express on the track remain unique in the history of Italian athletics.

June 27, 2023 (change June 27, 2023 | 11:05 am)

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