| EAA European Championships|
BiographyMennea, who was born in Barletta, and started his long international athletic career in 1971, where he won the first of his 14 Italian outdoor titles in the 100/200. He also won 2 Indoor titles at 60/400. He also won 5 Mediterranean Games Golds in 100/200 also. He competed at the European Championships with a third place in the 4 x 100 m relay. He made his Olympic debut at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where he made the final of the 200 m, his strongest event. He crossed the line in third place, behind Valeri Borzov and Larry Black. Three more Olympic 200 metre finals would follow later in his career.
After some poor performances in the 1976 Olympic season, Mennea decided to skip the Olympics, but when the Italian public protested Mennea went to Montreal. He did make it to the final of the 200 m, but saw Don Quarrie take the gold, leaving the Italian in fourth. He again placed fourth when the Italian relay team just missed out on the bronze.
In 1977 he finished 2nd in the world cup 200, where a photo finish separated him from Clancy Edwards of America. He successfully defended his European 200 m title in 1978, but displayed his capabilities on the 100 metres by also winning that event in Prague.
In 1979, Mennea was 1st in the 100, and 2nd in the 200 behind Allan Wells of Great Britain in the European Cup. But afterwards because he was a student in political sciences, took part in the World University Games, which were held on the high-altitude track of Mexico City. His winning time, 19.72 in the 200 was a new world record. Although the record held out for seventeen years, it is often downplayed by noting the high altitude of Mexico. It should be pointed out, though, that Mennea also held the low-altitude world record from 1980 to 1983 (19.96, set in his home town, Barletta). His high altitude record was finally beaten by Michael Johnson at the US Trials for the 1996 Summer Olympics. As of July 2008 still only seven athletes recorded a better time on 200 metres than Mennea's world record.
The world record holder was also one of the favourites for the Olympic gold in Moscow, especially because of the American boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. He competed in the 100 metres where he reached the semi-finals. In the 200 m final, Mennea faced reigning champion Don Quarrie, and 100 m champion Allan Wells. Wells seemed to be heading for the gold, but Mennea slowly drew closer on the straight, and edged the Scotsman for the gold by 0.02 seconds.
In 1983, in Cassino, he clocked a manual 14"8 in 150 m, a new world record which he still holds today.
Mennea, known in Italy as the Freccia del Sud ("Arrow of the South"), then announced his retirement, allowing himself more time for his study. However, he came back from retirement soon, and won a bronze medal in the 200 m at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki. A year later, he competed in his fourth consecutive Olympic 200 m final, becoming the first person to do so. The defending champion finished in seventh, and retired from athletics for a second time afterwards. Again, Mennea made a comeback, and competed in his fifth Olympics in Seoul, but didn't make it through the heats of the 200 m.