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30 Jul 1976
Montreal 1976

Kazankina reaches new heights in Montreal - Athletics

Few athletes headed to Canada in the summer of 1976 as strongly tipped for Olympic gold in their event as middle distance runner Tatyana Kazankina.

The Soviet athlete was in the prime of her career and less than a month before the 1976 Olympic Games opened in Montreal she had shattered the 1,500m world record set by her compatriot Lyudmila Bragina in the inaugural staging of the event in Munich four years earlier.

She was a late entrant for the 800m, but fully justified her inclusion in one of the most remarkable finals in Olympic history.

All of the first four athletes across the line in the Olympic Stadium bettered the previous world record, but it was Kazankina who reigned supreme.

After the previous world record holder Valentina Gerassimova was eliminated in the semis, Kazankina burst past the field in the home straight to win in 1 minute 54.94 seconds and earn her first major international title.

In the 1,500m qualifiers several days later another field of the highest order assembled. It included the future London Marathon winner Grete Waitz and Maricica Puica, who would go on to take gold in the women’s 3,000m final at Los Angeles 1984, remembered for the infamous clash between Mary Decker and Zola Budd.

Kazankina didn’t just break Bragina’s record, she decimated it, shedding over five seconds from the previous mark.

With Waitz and Puica both falling by the wayside in the qualifying heats, Kazankina was strongly fancied to see off Bragina and the East German duo of Gunhild Hoffmeister and Ulrike Klapezynski in the final.

Yet again the Soviet star left it late, but she timed her race to perfection to win by over half a second and etch her name into the record books once more.

Four years later she retained her 1,500m title in Moscow and then in 1983, at the age of 32, won bronze in the 3,000m at the World Championships in Helsinki.

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