#10. Joaquim Cruz, Brazil
#9. "Peerless" Mel Sheppard, USA
#8. Alberto "El Caballo" Juantorena Danger (Cuba)
Born September 3, 1950, Santiago de Cuba
The 800 meters was actually Juantorena's second-best event, as he specialized in the 400. He was a baseketball player as a teenager and did not take up track until 1971; he nearly made the Olympic 400-meter finals the very next year.
Juantorena was undefeated in the 400 over the next two years, but required foot surgery prior to the 1975 season. Part of his recovery included 15 kilometer runs which he found easy. Thus the plan for doubling up in the 400 and 800 was hatched. Even though he was second on the yearly world list going into the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he had not yet run against the world's best or in a competition with multiple rounds, and was a big question mark. He won in world record time, finished the season undefeated, and the next year broke his own record in the midst of another undefeated campaign.
After that it was mostly downhill, as Juantorena suffered a number of injuries culminating with a broken foot suffered during the first World Championships in 1983. Those two seasons alone were dominating enough to push him up to #8 of all time in this event.
|1976||1||1:43.50 WB||1)Oly Gms; undefeated (8 meets)|
|1977||1||1:43.44 WB||1)Weltklasse, 1)W Cup; undefeated (11 meets)|
|1980||--||--||did not compete|
|1982||2||1:45.15||9 wins in 10 meets|
Links: Wikipedia -- Sporting Heroes -- IOC profile -- Telegraph interview -- 1976 Olympic finals