Marie-José Pérec was born on the island of Guadeloupe and moved to Paris when she was 16 years old. Recognizing her natural ability, coaches practically forced her to become a sprinter, and she represented France in the 200m at the 1988 Olympic Games.
Winning with long and graceful strides
In 1991, she won a clear victory at 400m in the world championships. Perec arrived at the 1992 Games in Barcelona as the favourite in the 400m and she lived up to expectations. Defending champion Olha Bryzhina led the field into the final straightaway, but Pérec used her long, graceful strides to pull away and win by almost two metres.
Second runner to win both 200m and 400m
Pérec continued to dominate the 400m between editions of the Games. At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, she won another clear victory and became the first runner of either sex to win the 400m twice. Three nights later, the French athlete made history again. In the final of the 200m, she defeated Merlene Ottey of Jamaica by one metre to become the second runner to win both the 400m and the 200m.