Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Santiago de Cuba, Juantorena first played basketball, until he was discovered by a Polish track coach, Zygmunt Zabierzowski, who convinced him to start running. Only a year later, Juantorena was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 400 m event at the Munich Olympics (1972).
He became better known in the next years, winning a gold medal at the World University Games (1973) and a silver at the 1975 Pan American Games, both in the 400 m. He only seriously took up running the 800 m in 1976, but few thought he was a serious candidate for the Olympic gold that year.
However, Juantorena made it to the Olympic final, and lead the field for most of the race, eventually winning in a world record time of 1:43.50. Three days later, he also won the 400 m final.
Juantorena, now known at home as El Caballo (the horse), continued his career, although he would never reach the same level as in Montreal. He just missed out on a medal in the 800 m at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, placing fourth. At the 1983 World Championships, his last international appearance in a major event, he was eliminated in the semi-finals.
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