The USSR’s stellar Olympic champion
Valeriy Borzov can lay claim to being the only Olympian to make it into space. A photo of the former USSR sprinter taken at the Munich Games in 1972, where he won double gold, was placed on the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, which were launched into space in 1977, and continue to orbit beyond our solar system to this day.
Double Olympic gold in 1972Born in the Ukrainian town of Sambir on 20 October 1949, Valeriy Borzov, dominated European men’s sprinting during the 1970s, representing the USSR at two Olympic Games. Between 1970 and 1977, he won four outdoor and seven indoor European Championship titles, and his European record of 10.07 seconds for the 100m, set in 1972, remained unbeaten until 1979. He was blessed with a superior technique, the result of an innovative and rigourous training regime. 1972 saw Borzov reach the pinnacle of his powers, as he won double gold in the 100m and 200m at the Munich Olympic Games. He remains the only European athlete to achieve that feat, which has subsequently been matched by just two other sprinters, American Carl Lewis (in 1984) and Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (in 2008 and 2012). Borzov also added a silver to his Munich haul in the 4x100m relay. And four years later in Montreal he claimed bronze in both the 100m and the 4x100m relay, to take his overall Olympic medal tally to five.
Immortalised in spaceA photo of Borzov competing in the 200m heats in Munich, was electronically recorded onto the Voyager Golden Record, a disc containing images and audio recordings designed to reflect every aspect of human life and culture, which was then placed on board the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and launched into outer space in 1977. The hope was that, if there were extraterrestrials out there, they would discover the discs and be able to learn about life on Earth. Four decades later, the Voyager spacecraft, complete with that image of Borzov, continue to orbit somewhere well beyond our solar system.
Politician and administratorA persistent injury forced Borzov to give up ambitions to compete in a third Olympic Games and he retired in 1979. He went on to become an influential figure in politics and sports administration. From 1990 to 1997 he was Ukraine’s Minister for Youth and Sport, continuing to serve as a member of the country’s parliament from 1998 to 2006. In 1994, he was elected to the International Olympic Committee, and has been a member of the IOC’s Commission for Culture and Olympic Education since 1999. From 1991 to 1998 he also served as President of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, and as President of the Ukrainian Athletics Federation from 1996 to 2012.