Carlos LOPES

Carlos Lopes - Portugal - Olympic Games marathon gold at the age of 37

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 12 August 1984

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      Tuesday, 18 February 1947
      Viseu, Portugal
  • Portugal
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Carlos LOPES - Portugal - Olympic Games marathon gold at the age of 37

After his big breakthrough in 1976, which saw him improve his 10,000m personal best by over 45sec and win the Olympic silver medal, it was expected that Carlos Lopes would capitalise on this improvement and go on to better things, but he slipped back into the same relative obscurity in which he had been before 1976. Carlos did not better 28 minutes for 10000m again until 1981, but then in 1982, he reduced his best time to 27min 24.39sec at the Bislett Games in Oslo, narrowly missing the world record. Lopes attempted his first marathon later that year in New York, in which he did not finish, but in Rotterdam the following April, he finished a close second to Rob De Castella (Australia) with a time of 2hr 08min 39sec.

At the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Lopes chose the 10,000m rather than the marathon, but did not have a happy race, allowing the pace to dawdle, and he was outkicked by the sprinters in the last lap, finishing a disappointing 6th. The following year Lopes finally succeeded in his attempts at the 10,000m world record, but unfortunately he finished second in 27min 17.48sec to compatriot Fernando Mamede as both men broke the existing record. Faced once more with the choice of the 10000m or marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Lopes chose the latter.


The Olympic marathon, on 12 August, was run in very hot and humid conditions, and as the favourites gradually fell away, it was the 37 year-old Lopes who led the field into the stadium (see photo above) to win the gold medal. In the last major competitive race of his career, the 1985 Rotterdam marathon held on 20 April, the 38 year-old Lopes took almost a minute off the world's best marathon time, setting a new standard of 2hr 07min 12sec. (Ron Casey)