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The Arrow of the South

The Arrow of the South

How many times has it happened to see someone running... a thief running away or maybe a child walking fast... and exclaiming... "miii... but who's Mennea...!!!..."

Yeah.... Mennea... the small and frail athlete, with scarce physical means, has remained indelible in our minds and in our hearts.... As if it were a trademark, as a word to be inserted by right in the vocabulary of the Italian language ...

As a child, I remember that I did not miss a race, I remember perfectly the night of September 12, 1979 ... it was about 23 and I had asked permission to my father not to go to sleep to be able to see my idol on TV, it was for me an unforgettable night .... I couldn't close my eyes...I remember just a year before we had bought the color TV at the World Cup in Argentina, and it was the first time I saw my idol in color ... it was the first time that a man ran the 200 meters in 19 "72, it was the first time that an Italian was on the roof of the world in a discipline that was monopolized by the Americans ... I remember just as well the phrase with which he commented on his race immediately after crossing the finish line ...". A young man from the South ... without a track, who made the world record " a myth ... a world record that remained in history because Peter had beaten his myth Tommie Smith ... a record that will last 17 years and is currently still European and Italian record. This is how the name of Freccia del Sud was consecrated....

Pietro Paolo Mennea was born on June 28, 1952 in Barletta, from a family of humble origins (homemaker's mother and tailor's father). He joined the accountancy school after middle school, since adolescent he shows remarkable talents in athletics, especially in running. His debut in a great event happens at only nineteen years old, on the occasion of the European Championships of 1971, when he conquers a sixth place in the two hundred meters and the bronze medal in the relay 4x100.

As a child he enjoyed challenging cars in speed races on 50 meters, and even beat the Porsche and Alfa Romeo betting 500 lire to pay for the cinema and a sandwich ...


The following year, Mennea was already at the Olympics: in Munich in 1972, the Apulian sprinter took the podium in the final of the two hundred meters, third behind the Soviet Valerij Borzov and Larry Black, American. Mennea's sporting career, therefore, took off immediately: the confirmations arrived at the European Championships in Rome in 1974, when in front of the home crowd Pietro won the silver medal in the relay and in the hundred meters (once again behind Borzov, destined to become his historical rival), but especially the gold medal in the two hundred, his favorite specialty.

The peak of Pietro Mennea's career was the 80th Moscow Olympic Games, where he won the gold in the 200 meters with a final that remained in the eyes of many Italians, with that "white bullet" in the eighth lane that caught the gold right on the woolen thread, driven by the memorable commentary of the commentator Paolo Rosi.

IIt, too, has gone down in history: "...it recovers ...it recovers ...it recovers ...it recovers ...it recovers ...it has won! ...HAS WINNED! Pietro Mennea has accomplished an extraordinary feat".

After the end of his career Pietro Mennea obtained four degrees (law, political science, literature and motor science), was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004, and worked as a lawyer with his wife Manuela.

In 2006 he founded a foundation named after him, which deals with charity and the fight against doping.

The latter had become his mission and Pietro Mennea was always ready to tell his experience as a man and athlete in front of the youngest, to help them understand that "In our lives we must not overcome the difficulties we encounter but we must seek that lane unoccupied that allows us to express our abilities.

Having suffered from pancreatic cancer, he finished his "run" and his fight against an incurable disease by dying in Rome on March 21, 2013, at the age of 60.

"I'm a man who never feels like he's arrived, I'm always ready to start over from the blocks."

"Sport teaches us that talent is not enough for victory, it takes daily work and sacrifice. In sport as in life."

"I have trained for 20 years, I have had a very long career as a sprinter, but I have never even snatched. Instead, if I had used anabolic steroids, I would have ripped off who knows how many times. Sport must remain the last bastion of the social fabric as far as the respect of the rules is concerned. In short, among athletes must win the best, not the smartest."

"Every now and then there is someone in the park who asks me: what do you do? I wish I had enough breath to answer: I've already done it. 5482 days of training, 528 races, a gold medal and two Olympic bronzes, plus the rest that is so much. At 60 I have no regrets."