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30 Jul 1976
Montreal 1976

Saneyev leaps to golden hat-trick - Athletics

The sight of Viktor Saneyev’s head bobbing up and down as he tore furiously down the triple jump runway became all to common as the Soviet athlete dominated his event in the 1960s and 1970s.

The muscular Georgian-born Saneyev entered the pantheon of Olympic greats with his third consecutive triple jump gold following a terrific contest at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in 1976.

Four years later in Moscow he almost made it an unprecedented fourth straight track and field gold,  but was edged into silver by his team-mate Jaak Uudmäe.

Saneyev was marked out as a superb jumper early in his career, and once he had graduated from university he focused solely on the triple jump and was soon enjoying great success.

Early in 1968 he won the Soviet national title and a matter of months later broke the world record twice in one afternoon to win gold at the Olympic Games in Mexico City.

He retained the title four years later in Munich with the opening jump of the final, but ahead of the Games of 1976 a pretender to his crown had emerged.

Brazilian Joao Carlos De Oliveira had shattered the world record at altitude in 1975 in Mexico, and was fancied to give the great Saneyev his toughest challenge for many years. So it proved.

De Oliveira and the American James Butts made it a contest to remember, with the latter grabbing the lead in the fourth round with a leap of 17.18m.

Saneyev provided an instant riposte in the fifth round with an effort of 17.29m which would prove unbeatable.

The victory put him into an elite group of athletes to have won three straight golds in the same event.

No male Soviet track and field athlete had won as many golds as Saneyev and after his valiant silver in front of a home crowd in 1980 he retired from competition to take up a coaching career.                                                    

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