Marie-José Pérec

La Gazelle

Who is she?

Marie - José Pérec is an Olympic sprinter. She was the first sprinter to win consecutive gold medals in 400 metres. She was born in West Indian Island of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe on May 19 1968. Basse-Terre is an overseas administrative district of France. She is extremely tall being 180cm and long legged making her perfect for the 200 and 400 metre events.


How did Marie get into sprinting?

Marie - José Pérec actually played basketball in her early years. She only began running when she was discovered by her school gym teacher when asked to run 100 metres. The Gym teacher did not believe the stop watch was correct, so she made Marie do it again. When she was 16 years old (1984) she moved to Paris after a French coach recruited her and this is when her real career began. Although the positive results she received in France her first event she was disqualified at her first tournament - The French Inter School Championships as she stepped out of the lane.


Her best moments

Career

After moving past the disqualification, she placed second in the French Junior Championships in the 200m. At the age of 20 (1988) Marie surprised the media and crowd by setting her first national record in the 400m not the 200m which was initially her best event. She ran the 400m in 51.35 seconds. In 1988 Marie also made her Olympic debut in the South Korea Olympics held in Soeul where she made it through to the quarterfinals for the 200m. In 1989 she received a bronze medal for 400m at the Outdoor European Championships and in 1990 a gold medal for 200m at the Indoor European Championships.


1991 was a great year for Marie - José Pérec. She ran 11 seconds in the 100m and won the 400m event with 50 seconds at the Tokyo World Championships. She proudly defeated Grit Breuer from Germany to then win the World Title. These achievements then confirmed her spot in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. In these Olympics she received her first Gold Medal from the 400m event in 48.83 seconds, still improving on her times. She beat the defending champion by two metres. In 1993 she considered she might switch back to the 200m event even though her coach advised not to and as her coach prediction this decision failed, because she received fourth at the World Championships.


Marie decided it was time to go back to the 400m event and this decision payed off. She won both the 400m individual and relay in the European Championships. In 1995 Marie regained her World Title and broke the French national record of the 400m hurdles. For the Atlanta, Georgia Olympics in 1996 she won both the 200m and the 400m. Marie also became the first ever sprinter to regain her Olympic title for the 400m event. To this day Marie is the third fastest to run the 400m.

Controversies

After Marie - José Pérec was unable to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games she was harassed at her hotel outside Olympic Park. So she then decided to leave the country with Anthuan Maybank her boyfriend (US Olympian). Marie was always concerned about her privacy and was known as "the Greta Garbo of athletics" .On the couples stopover to Singapore, they were both still getting followed by journalists. So Anthuan Maybank attacked one of these reporters which resulted in a scandal. Marie officially retired in 2004 "I have finally decided to hang up my spikes," and in 2010 she gave birth to her son and the father was Frenchman Sébastien Foucras. "I am going to finally discover a real life, an everyday sort of life. I feel euphoric and very excited."


Injuries

Marie ran her best time in 1996 and from here she had to abandon many events due to injury and illness. Marie had to give up the 1997 World Championships, 2000 Sydney Olympics (against Cathy Freeman who then won the event), 2003 World Championships and a planned comeback in 2004 for the Athens Olympics. She was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue disease (Epstein-Barr disease).


Achivements

Triple Olympic champion

1990 Bronze in the 400 m

1991 World Champion in the 400 m

1992 champion in Barcelona Olympics in the 400m

1994 won the European Championship in 400 m and relay 400 m

1995 World Champion in the 400 m

1996 Women's 200 m Best Year Performance

1996 Champion at Atlanta Olympics in the 200 m and 400 m

Beat the Olympic world Record

1997 Women's Track & Field ESPY Award

2012 Elected as the president of the Ligue Régionale d'Athlétisme de la Guadeloupe

Now a Member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club

Third fastest Olympic 400 m female sprinter of all time