Athletics mourns the passing of Michel Jazy, twice European champion

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  • Athletics mourns the passing of Michel Jazy, twice European champion

European Athletics is saddened to learn of the passing of Olympic silver medallist and twice European gold medallist Michel Jazy, who died on Thursday (1), aged 87.

A legendary figure of French endurance running, he was second in the men’s 1500m final at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games to Australia’s Herb Elliot, who set a new world record of 3:35.6. Jazy finished fourth in the 5000m final at the Tokyo Olympics four years later. 

He won 1500m gold and 5000m silver at the Belgrade 1962 European Athletics Championships and then went on to win 5000m gold at the Budapest 1966 European Athletics Championships. 

World record feats

He was also a prolific world record breaker, setting nine through the course of his career, including the iconic mile distance, when he clocked 3:53.6 in Rennes, France in June 1965, taking the record from three-times Olympic gold medallist Peter Snell of New Zealand.

He finished his racing career in world record form, setting a new best of 4:56.2 for the 2000m in October 1966, closing the book on a magnificent career. 

Jazy was born on 13 June 1936 in Oignies into a coal-mining family from Poland who emigrated to France after the first World War. Following multiple age group success at national level (see above), he made his Olympic debut at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games, aged 20.  

He finished seventh in the 1500m semi final in Melbourne, where he roomed with fellow French runner Alain Mimoun, who triumphed in the Olympic marathon and became a source of inspiration for Jazy. 

Outside of the championship arena, he was most noted for his record-breaking feats, especially in June 1965, where he set world records in the mile, 3000m, two miles and 4x1500m relay all in a single month.

A French icon

Away from athletics, he led a successful professional career, including stints in French Air Force, for national newspaper L’Equipe and as an administrator of the Parc des Princes stadium.

“The athletics family is in mourning,” reacted André Giraud, president of the FFA. “With the death of Michel Jazy, we lose a legend of our sport. Through his results, his elegance, his talent and his sense of effort, he will have transmitted magnificent emotions to millions of French people. 

On a more personal level, Michel was a friend, who had first been a model for me when I started athletics. On behalf of the French Athletics Federation, I send my most sincere condolences to his wife Monique and to all his loved ones.”

European Athletics sends it condolences to his closest family and friends and everyone connected with the sport in France.

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