Marina Stepanova - U.S.S.R. - 1986 European 400m hurdles champion with World Record

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 28 August 1986

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      Monday, 01 May 1950
      Meglevo, U.S.S.R.
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Marina STEPANOVA - U.S.S.R. - 1986 European 400m hurdles champion with World Record


 o English-speaking observers, Marina Stepanova seemed to have a most appropriate name for a 400m hurdler. In reality, Stepanova had acquired her descriptive surname through marriage, and her early athletic success had come while competing under her maiden name of Makeyeva. Although Marina had improved her personal best to 56.19sec in August 1978, two weeks later at the European Championships in Prague, she finished only sixth in her semi-final. Marina was rapidly improving however, and on 27 July the following year in Moscow, she not only beat world-record holder Tatyana Zelentsova, but also broke her world record, setting a new mark of 54.78sec. Marina retired after the 1980 season and gave birth to her daughter in 1981. She returned to competition in 1983, and quickly regained her previous form. In 1984, she equalled her personal best of 54.78sec on 10 June, improved it to 54.34sec on 22 June, and in Prague on 17 August, she lowered it again to 53.67sec, only 0.09sec outside the world record.


At the 1986 European Championships in Stuttgart, Stepanova easily advanced through her heat (see photo above) and semi-final, and then in the final on 30 August, she won the gold medal in a new world record time of 53.32sec. Less than three weeks later on 17 September at Tashkent, she improved this time to 52.94sec, becoming the oldest female athlete to set a track world record at 36 years 139 days. Stepanova did not compete after the 1987 season, and despite her many successes in the event over a long period, she lacked an Olympic medal. She was denied the opportunity in 1980 as the women's 400m Hurdles was not introduced as an Olympic event until 1984, and she was again denied the chance four years later due to the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Games. (Ron Casey)