Olga Bryzgina - U.S.S.R. - 1987 World & 1988 Olympic Games 400m champion.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 31 August 1987

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Olga BRYZGINA - U.S.S.R. - 1987 World & 1988 Olympic Games 400m champion.


Following the retirement of the great Marita Koch (East Germany) at the end of 1986, her mantle as the world's premier 400m runner was quickly assumed by Olga Bryzgina. Competing under her maiden name of Vladykina, Olga made a big breakthrough in 1984 when she slashed her personal best time to 48.98sec at Kiev on 22 June. Bryzgina produced the fastest time of her career in 1985, but she still had to contend with Koch. The main international event that year was the World Cup held in Canberra, and in her preparation for this meet, Olga lowered her personal best to 48.96sec when she won the national championships at Leningrad on 3 August, and then further reduced it 48.60sec, when winning the European Cup at Moscow two weeks later.


In the 400m final at Canberra on 6 October, Bryzgina was in scintillating form, but she was completely overwhelmed by Koch, who set a new world record of 47.60sec. Bryzgina's second-place time of 48.27sec would remain her career best, and up to 2001 was still the fastest non-winning time ever recorded. In the 1986 European Championships at Stuttgart, Koch won her last major international event, well ahead of Bryzgina in second place and bronze medallist Petra Muller (East Germany). The subsequent retirement of Koch gave Olga the opportunity to divest herself of her bridesmaid's role at the 1987 World Championships in Rome. In the 400m final at Rome, held on 31 August, Bryzgina (see photo above, No. 557) took over the lead from Muller (No. 305) entering the straight, and sprinted away to win the gold medal by five metres from Muller in 49.38sec. Six days later, Olga anchored the Soviet Union 4 x 400m relay to a second-place finish behind East Germany. (Ron Casey)




Photo of Olga Bryzgina taken on 26th. September 1988 by G. Herringshaw. ©

                               Double gold medalist in Seoul Olympics 1988.

Olga Bryzgina had finally emerged from the shadow of the legendary Marita Koch in 1987, when she won the 400m final at the World Championships in Rome from Petra Muller (East Germany). Bryzgina had been denied the opportunity to compete at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles due to the Olympic boycott that year by the eastern bloc countries, and she was keen to avenge this disappointment at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. The two outstanding 400m athletes during 1988 were Bryzgina and Muller. Muller had won all eight of the outdoor finals in which she had competed prior to the Olympics, and had her time of 49.30sec set on 3 June, had remained the fastest time of the season, until Bryzgina recorded 49.18sec when winning at the Vladimir Kuts Memorial meet in Moscow on 4 September.


In the 400m final at Seoul, on 26 September, the early pace was set by the defending champion Valerie Brisco (USA). Bryzgina caught Brisco at the 300m mark, and although Muller made a late charge, Bryzgina easily held her off, and ran away an easy winner (see photo above) in 48.65sec. Five days later, Bryzgina won her second Olympic gold medal, in the final of the 4 x 400m relay. Running the final leg for the Soviet Union, Bryzgina received the baton just in front of USA sprint superstar Florence Griffith-Joyner, who had already won three gold medals at Seoul. Despite an impressive 48.1sec leg from Griffith-Joyner, Bryzgina blazed a stupendously fast leg of 47.8sec to anchor the victorious Soviet team to a new world record of 3min 15.17sec. After winning her two Olympic gold medals, Olga retired from competition for the next two years, during which time her daughter Lisa was born in November 1989. (Ron Casey)




 Photo 5th. August 1992. © G.Herringshaw.

                                  Silver & Gold at 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Olga Bryzgina had been the world's premier 400m runner in 1987 and 1988, winning both the World and Olympic titles. Following her Olympic victory in 1988, Olga temporarily retired from competition, during which time she gave birth to her daughter Lisa. When Bryzgina returned to competition in 1991, she found that her mantle as the world's best one-lap specialist had been assumed by Frenchwoman Marie-Jose Perec. In the 400m final at the World Championships in Tokyo on 27 August, Perec simply outclassed the opposition, while Bryzgina, running her fastest race for three years in a time of 49.82sec, was unlucky to just miss a medal, as she was pipped on the line for third place by Sandra Myers (Spain). It was a different story in the 4 x 400m relay, which the Soviet Union won easily from the USA, thanks to a superb anchor leg of 48.67sec from Bryzgina.


By the time of the next Olympic Games, at Barcelona in August of the following year, Bryzgina had returned to close to her form of 1987 and 1988, but she still had to contend with Perec. In the Olympic final on 5 August, Bryzgina, representing Ukraine following the demise of the Soviet Union, made a very fast start and led through the halfway mark in 23.7sec. However, at that point Perec started to close the gap, and although Olga still led at 300m (see photo above), she was quickly passed by Perec, who went on to win the gold medal with Bryzgina claiming the silver. In the 4 x 400m relay final, the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union combined in a unified team to win the gold medal, with Bryzgina running the anchor leg. That was Olga's last major championships and she retired shortly afterwards. (Ron Casey)



1992     49.05     Barcelona (Estadio Olímpico)     05 AUG
1991     49.82     Tokyo (Olympic Stadium)     27 AUG
1988     48.65     Seoul (Olympic Stadium)     26 SEP
1987     49.38     Roma (Stadio Olimpico)     31 AUG
1985     48.27     Canberra (Bruce Stadium)     06 OCT
1984     48.98     Kyiv                                    22 JUN