Profile Born on 3 December 1950 in Santiago de Cuba, Alberto Juantorena became the only athlete to win the 400m and 800m in the same edition of the Olympic Games, a rare feat as the 400m is really a sprint and the 800m a middle distance event.
Alberto Juantorena Danger had never seriously considered becoming an athlete until his early 20s. The lanky Cuban was an avid basketball player with dreams of becoming a hero on the basketball court. In 1971, his athletic talents were spotted by Polish coach Zygmunt Zabierzowski, who encouraged Juantorena to give athletics a try. Zabierzowski soon found out he had stumbled upon a natural. Only a year later, Juantorena took part in the 400m at the 1972 Munich Olympics, reaching the semifinals in the process.
He spent the years preparing for the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games building quite a reputation in the 400m and earning the nickname ‘White Lightning’. In 1976, Juantorena also decided to enter the 800m, a distance he had far less experience in than the single lap he was used to. He was not considered among the favourites to win an Olympic medal in the 800m. Nevertheless, he thundered away in a world record time of 1:43.50, leaving the opposition in awe. As expected, he also won his beloved 400m three days later. Juantorena’s were Cuba’s first Olympic gold medals in athletics.
In the 1980 Olympics in Moscow he just missed out on a medal in the 400m. He continued running until his retirement in 1983. As a token of gratitude, Cuba named Juantorena their Vice Minister of Sports.