Marcello Fiasconaro

Marcello Luigi Fiasconaro (born 19 July 1949) is an Italian-South African athlete, who set a world record in the 800 m in 1973.

Marcello Fiasconaro
Marcello Fiasconaro c. 1973
Personal information
Full nameMarcello Luigi Fiasconaro
NationalitySouth Africa/ Italy
Born (1949-07-19) 19 July 1949
Cape Town, South Africa
ResidenceJohannesburg, South Africa
Height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight74 kg (163 lb)
Event(s)400 metres, 800 metres

Early life

Born in Cape Town to an Italian father and South African mother, Fiasconaro spent his youth in this South African coastal city.

His father, Gregorio, was born in Castelbuono, Sicily. A pilot for Italy during World War II, the elder Fiasconaro was shot down over East Africa and taken to South Africa as a prisoner of war. He married Mabel Marie, a South African woman from Pietermaritzburg, and settled in Cape Town, where he was appointed professor of music at the University of Cape Town.[1][2]

He completed his schooling career at Rondebosch Boys' High School in 1967.[3]

Marcello Fiasconaro's first passion was rugby. After playing for the Villagers Rugby Club in Cape Town, he was selected for the Western Province under 20 team.[1]

He only switched to athletics at the age of 20. Fiasconaro discovered his running talent after the president of the Celtic Harriers Running Club at the time, Stewart Banner, suggested that the rugby team train with his runners to get fit. Banner became Fiasconaro's trainer.[1]

Athletics career

In his second 400 m race at Stellenbosch University's Coetzenburg track, Fiasconaro beat the favourites, Springbok athletes Danie Malan and Donald Timm.[1]

In 1970 Fiasconaro won the 400 m at an athletics meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa. His feat attracted the attention of Italian discus thrower Carmelo Rado, who asked about Fiasconaro's citizenship. When Rado heard of Fiasconaro's Italian origins, he drew the matter to the attention of the Italian athletics authorities.[4]

Fiasconaro was invited to participate in Italy, where he set a new Italian record of 45.7 seconds over the 400 metres, winning the title of Italian Champion at this distance.[1]

Already among the fastest 7 men in the world over 400 meters, he acquired an Italian passport in 1971. At this point Fiasconaro spoke very little Italian. Although he at first needed an interpreter to communicate, he learnt Italian from his team mates. He started living in Italy for six months of each year to race for the Italian Athletics Federation.[1]

In 1971 Fiasconaro won a silver medal in the 400 metres at the European Championship in Helsinki. His time of 45.49 seconds was beaten in Italy only in 1981. He also won a bronze medal in the 4 × 400 m relay, in which he ran the final leg.[5][6] In 1972 he set an indoor world record in the 400 metres with 46.1 seconds.

But Banner and his charge concluded that Fiasconaro lacked the speed for the 400 m, and should concentrate on the 800 m instead. In 1973 Fiasconaro broke the Italian 800 m record five times, and won the South African Championships over the same distance at Potchefstroom. During the same year he equalled Dicky Broberg's South African record of 1.44.7 – a joint feat that survived for 25 years afterwards.[1]

Fiasconaro was a favourite to win the 800 metre at the 1974 European Championships in Rome. After leading for over 600 metres at a fast pace, he got tired and was passed by the surprise winner, Yugoslavia's Luciano Susanj. In the home straight Fiasconaro fell back to seventh place.[7]

In 1974 Fiasconaro participated in 800 metres in the Sunkist Invitational Indoor Track Meet in Los Angeles.[8]

World record

The most outstanding moment in Fiasconaro's career came in the evening of 27 June 1973, in Milan. The favourite was Jozef Plachý, a Slovak who had reached the 1968 final and the 1972 semi-final in the 800 m at the Olympic Games.[9] Plachý possessed a devastating finish. Banner and Fiasconaro's tactics were to go out fast. The plan nearly backfired when Plachý managed to stay with Fiasconaro for most of the race, before finally falling back over the last 150 metres.[1]

On his return to South Africa, Fiasconaro went on 10-day partying spree. He paid the toll for his overindulgence when he was easily beaten in the United States soon afterwards. In trying to recapture his form, he overtrained. A stress fracture in his foot signalled the beginning of the end of his brief meteoric career.[1]

At the 1974 European Championships he developed problems with his Achilles tendon. The constant injuries and pressure to compete led him to take a year-long sabbatical from athletics.[1]

Fiasconaro's world record of 1:43.7 seconds was beaten at world level three years later,[10] but is still the Italian record – perhaps the longest-lived Italian athletics record in any discipline.

Other sports and acting

In 1973 he play in My Way in role of a runner. He returned to play rugby union in Italy in 1976, playing with CUS Milan (University team) for two seasons.[2][11][12]

His talent as an all-round athlete was tested in an appearance in the 1976 heat of The Superstars, a television sports competition that pitted athletes against one another in disciplines other than their own. Although he placed 5th overall, Fiasconaro came first in the 50 m swimming and soccer skills events, and second in 15m pistol shooting.[13]

Later life

After suffering from injuries which prevented him from participating in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, Fiasconaro returned to South Africa in 1978, where he married his girlfriend, Sally.[1]

In 2009 he was living in Johannesburg's Benmore suburb. The Italian consul to South Africa awarded Fiasconaro the Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Republica Italiana, described as "the highest honour that can be bestowed on an Italian civilian".[1]

See also


  1. Pieters, Michelle. "A Knight's Tale." Retrieved on 14 March 2010.
  2. Rondelli, Giorgio. (2008). "Historic Top Training: Marcello Fiasconaro." Retrieved on 14 March 2010.
  3. "Rondebosch Old Boys' Union | South Africa". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  4. "What's your top 10?" Discussion column. Track and Field News. November 2003
  5. "Marcello Fiasconaro." Wikipedia, L'enciclopedia Libera.
  6. "1971 European Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Mens Results." Retrieved on 14 March 2009.
  7. Siukonen, Markku, Matti Ahola et al. (eds.) (1990). Suuri EM-kirja: yleisurheilun EM-kisat 1934–1990. [The Great European Championships in Athletics Book]. Jyväskylä, Finland: Sportti-Kustannus.
  8. Putnam, Pat (28 January 1974). "Marcello Showed He Is No Fiasco – Lover, film freak, wild man, world-record holder, Marcello Fiasconaro compromised in L.A., but lived up to his billings." Sports Illustrated.
  9. "Josef Plachy." Retrieved on March 14, 2009
  10. Hannus, Matti. (1976). 1976 Montréal, Olympiakirja [Montréal Olympic Book]. Helsinki: Offsetpaino Sivakka.
  11. Remo Musumeci (23 March 1978). "Marco Bollesan, 37 anni, torna in A" [The 37-year-old Marco Bollesan gets back to Serie A] (PDF). l'Unità (in Italian). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  12. Bonini, Gherardo. (1999). "Rugby: the game for 'real Italian men.' " In Timothy JL Chandler and John Nauright (eds.). Making The Rugby World: Race, Gender, Commerce. Frank Cass: London. ISBN 978-0-7146-4853-8
  13. Medler, James. (2009). "The Superstars."
Preceded by
Peter Snell
Ralph Doubell
Dave Wottle
Men's 800 metres World Record Holder
1973-06-27 – 1976-07-16
Succeeded by
Alberto Juantorena
Preceded by
Pekka Vasala
European Record Holder Men's 800 m
27 June 1973 – 4 July 1979
Succeeded by
Sebastian Coe
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