Alberto Juantorena, Cuban world champion middle distance runner and Vice President of INDER, the Cuban Institute of Sport, visited Hackney on a pre-Olympic visit. He made a special visit to meet with children at Grasmere Primary School on Albion Road, in Newington Green.
Children watched a video of Juantorenna winning the 800 metres Gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Then, after a few questions from an awestruck, audience the runner produced the actual gold medal from his pocket. He then visited a few of the classes to talk some more to the students. Alberto’s key message was repeated a number of times when he said:
“to achieve something like this Olympic gold you need three things discipline, dedication and passion”
At the 1976 Summer Olympics, Juantorena became the first and so far only athlete to win both the 400m and 800m Olympic titles setting world records at both events. With his famous sprint and his unique middle distance combination he seemed to have heralded a new era and style for middle-distance runners. In the 1970’s Juantorena was often referred to as ‘White Lightening’ or ‘El Caballo’ (the horse).
Current UK Olympic chief Sebastian Coe is a friend and admirer of Juantorena. In 1979 Sebastian Coe finally broke Juantorena’s 800m record which he had held for 3 years.
"I remember seeing him in Montreal and thinking, 'I'm in the wrong distance.' This was a record that was sensational." - Sebastian Coe
Juantorena is one of the most prominent Cuban sporting figures and travels the world in his role as a council member of the International Athletics Federation (IAAF). He has always maintained the highest standards in support of athletics and sports in general and is a great exponent of the Cuban sports ethos.
“We want to promote the great qualities of athletics - and maintain its integrity - all over the world.”