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28 Jul 1976
Montreal 1976

Renaissance man Drut hurdles to glory - Athletics

Every now and then, a competitor comes along whose natural talents and athleticism are such that specialising in a single discipline can be something of a headache.

So it was for France’s Guy Drut, who in the mid-1960s was the junior national record holder in decathlon, pole vault and the 110m hurdles, and went on to win senior national titles in several disciplines. In short, he was the supreme French athlete of his generation.

Eventually, the man who hailed from the northern region of Pas-de-Calais, focused on the hurdles and made his international breakthrough at the 1969 European Championships at the age of just 18.

Drut reached the 110m final, where he found himself pitted against several of the era’s greatest hurdlers: British pair Alan Pascoe and David Hemery, the 1968 Olympic 400m hurdles champion, and his Italian training partner Eddy Ottoz.

Drut finished  just out of the medals in fourth, as Ottoz pipped the British duo to gold. However, it was clear that the French youngster, blessed with such a blistering finish, would soon be claiming some major scalps.

Three years later at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Drut finished second, a metre behind Rod Milburn, having pushed the American all the way to the line.

In 1972, he claimed the European 50m hurdles indoor crown, adding the 110m European outdoor title in Rome’s Olympic Stadium two years later.

By the time build-up to Montreal 1976 began, Drut was heavily tipped to break the USA’s stranglehold on the men’s Olympic 110m hurdles title, which extended back as far as 1928.

The Frenchman won neither his heat nor his semi-final but had nonetheless looked assured in his progress to the final, and as he lined up in lane five, he looked primed for glory.

Even a poor start could not derail him, as he produced a trademark lightning finish to win by a foot from the Cuban Alejandro Ramirez in 13.30 seconds, with the USA’s Willie Davenport finishing third.

After a short delay while the officials confirmed the result, the delighted Frenchman embarked on an ecstatic lap of victory.

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