After Emil Zàtopek, Marie-José Pérec is probably the second great runner who contributed to making running an inspiring sport in my eyes. Like most French people, I still remember Marie-Jo (that how all French people know her) draping herself in the French flag after winning the gold medal for the 400m at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. After 20 years, her time of of 48.25 seconds still makes her the third fastest woman of all times!

Marie-Jo Perec - Atlanta 1996

Marie-Jo Perec – Atlanta 1996 Photo by sd_ukrm

I know, she was a sprinter and I’m more into long distance running, but I still find her inspiring, and her career impressive! The funny thing is that she wasn’t really into running when she was young, but she was really digging basketball. She only discovered her talent in her late teens. At 20, after just one year of training, she became the French champion on 400m! Three years later, in 1991, she became the world champion on the distance in Tokyo. The following year, she won the gold at the Barcelona Olympics and 4 years later, our standard-bearer wons 2 gold medals in Atlanta (400m and 200m). If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.

I know the end of her career was a bit disappointing and a lot of people remember the bad rap she had at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but I prefer to remember her as a legend of French athletics and of sprint in general.