Home > News > Moscow 1980 > Cuban Colon upsets Eastern Bloc stronghold

Moscow 1980


Cuban Colon upsets Eastern Bloc stronghold

Cuban Colon upsets Eastern Bloc stronghold


With the East Germans and the Russians dominating the track and field events at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, the women’s javelin was seen as another sure-fire success for the Eastern Bloc.

With or without the boycotting nations in Moscow, the East Europeans would have dominated anyway, and it seemed it would all be about who performed the best on the day.

Clearly Cuba’s Maria Colon had not read the script.

The 22-year-old from Baracoa had been competing effectively at junior level and claimed her first major international success at the Pan American Games the year before Moscow.

Yet it was two Eastern European throwers who were dominating the world scene.

East Germany’s Ruth Fuchs and Tatyana Biryulina of Russia were seemingly exchanging the world record at will in the months leading up to the Olympic Games.

As it turned out, both recorded disappointing performances in the heat of the final at Moscow’s Grand Arena.

Fuchs seemed to be the model of confidence in qualifying with the second largest throw of the preliminary round, while Colon eased through with an effort of 62.42m.

But with Fuchs troubled by a nagging back injury and Biryulina missing her best form, it was left to the elegant Cuban to take the plaudits.

She opened the competition with an effort that would not be surpassed. Her first round throw of 68.40m was an Olympic record, and none of the 12-woman field got close.

Colon held on for her first gold medal, with Russian Saida Gunba some 64cms back in the silver medal position. East Germany’s Ute Hommola took the bronze. Biryulina finished sixth, with Fuchs eighth.

Discover the best photos of Moscow 1980

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    The final torchbearer, basketballer Sergei Belov, in the Moscow Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony


  • Relay Moscow 1980

    A torchbearer during the Moscow 1980 Games Torch relay


  • Aleksandr Dityatin (URS)

    Aleksandr Dityatin on the rings at the Moscow 1980 Games


  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The reverse of this medal is very different from its obverse. However, it is not the work of the same artist. While the obverse was a creation by Giuseppe Cassioli, the reverse was designed by Ilya Postol, a young Soviet sculptor. We can see several elements that stand out through their stylisation: an Olympic cauldron, an athletics track in the background and the official logo of the Moscow Games on the top right ©CIO

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The obverse comprises a design by Tuscan artist Giuseppe Cassioli. This motif can be found on the obverse of all the winner’s medals presented at the Summer Games since 1928 with the exception of three special cases: Barcelona'92, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. An inscription, in Cyrillic, allows us to make the link with the Moscow Games. This is its transcription in the Latin alphabet and its translation: “Igry XXII Olympiady Moskva 1980” / “Games of the XXII Olympiad, Moscow 1980”©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    View of the delegations standing in front of the Misha mascot created by the public holding up boards