Allan WELLS has paid tribute to former sprint rival Pietro Mennea after the Italian athlete-turned-politician died aged 60.
The pair enjoyed a spectacular rivalry during a golden era for Scottish athletics and only Mennea stood between the Edinburgh native and a double Olympic triumph at the Moscow Games of 1980. After winning the 100 metres, Wells was on course to add the 200m.
However, Mennea found inspiration in the straight to come from nowhere and catch Wells with 10 metres to go. As his last act, Wells emulated the dip which had brought him victory in the 100, but fell short and had to settle for the silver.
Mennea’s winning time was a mere 0.02 seconds. As well as an Olympic 200m title, Mennea also held a world record in the event, set at altitude in Mexico City, for 17 years.
“It’s very sad news,” said Wells yesterday. “We were the same age, and 60 is not that old. It makes me think about the old times and the races we had. There’s no question he was my main rival outside America. He had a fantastic competitive edge and he was a formidable opponent. I enjoyed the competition with him.
“It was a special period of my life, and you always knew you’d have a hell of a battle with him. He was probably one of the best athletes to come out of Italy, and he’ll always be remembered, certainly by me.”
It is understood that Mennea, a qualified lawyer who served as an MEP, died of an as yet unspecified incurable disease.