Cuban Colon breaks East European stranglehold

With the East Germans and the Russians dominating the track and field events at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, the women’s javelin was seen as another sure-fire success for the Eastern Bloc.

With or without the boycotting nations in Moscow, the East Europeans would have dominated anyway, and it seemed it would all be about who performed the best on the day.

Clearly Cuba’s Maria Colon had not read the script.

The 22-year-old from Baracoa had been competing effectively at junior level and claimed her first major international success at the Pan American Games the year before Moscow.

Yet it was two Eastern European throwers who were dominating the world scene.

East Germany’s Ruth Fuchs and Tatyana Biryulina of Russia were seemingly exchanging the world record at will in the months leading up to the Olympic Games.

As it turned out, both recorded disappointing performances in the heat of the final at Moscow’s Grand Arena.

Fuchs seemed to be the model of confidence in qualifying with the second largest throw of the preliminary round, while Colon eased through with an effort of 62.42m.

But with Fuchs troubled by a nagging back injury and Biryulina missing her best form, it was left to the elegant Cuban to take the plaudits.

She opened the competition with an effort that would not be surpassed. Her first round throw of 68.40m was an Olympic record, and none of the 12-woman field got close.

Colon held on for her first gold medal, with Russian Saida Gunba some 64cms back in the silver medal position. East Germany’s Ute Hommola took the bronze. Biryulina finished sixth, with Fuchs eighth.

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