Nine outstanding European performances at the Stadio Olimpico

Armand Duplantis
Getty Images

Armand Duplantis cleared a world outdoor best of 6.15m in the Rome Diamond League

The 2024 European Athletics Championships will be held at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, a venue which has provided the setting for so many historic performances over the decades.

Following the announcement the European Athletics Championships will be returning to Rome for the first time since 1974, European Athletics takes a look back at nine outstanding European performances to be set at the Stadio Olimpico. 

Balas soars to her first Olympic title

Considered the greatest female high jumper in history, Romania’s Iolanda Balas won her first of two Olympic titles in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome 1960 to become the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic title.

Balas won an unmatched 154 successive high jump competitions between 1957 and 1966, including her first Olympic title in the Stadio Olimpico with a 1.85m clearance to win gold by a record winning margin of 14 centimetres.

Szewinska does the sprint double in 1974

Irena Szewinska defeated reigning Olympic champion Renate Stecher from East Germany in both the 100m and 200m finals at the 1974 European Championships. She set championship records in both finals, including a 22.51 clocking in the 200m despite a 2.8 m/s headwind. 

But her greatest performance of the week arguably came in an event in which she didn’t even win a medal. After winning bronze in the 4x100m, Szewinska was timed at an astonishing 48.5 in the 4x400m to help the Polish team to a fourth-place finish. 

Mennea delivers over 200m on home soil in Rome

On the same day Szewinska won the women’s 200m title, Pietro Mennea won the men’s 200m final from lane two in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 spectators. 

Mennea was to go on to win the 100/200m double at the 1978 European Championships in Prague and gold in the 200m at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

Susanj’s incredible surge in the 800m 

With an incredible turn of speed in the last 200 metres, Yugoslavia’s Luciano Susanj - one of the great 400/800m exponents - surged through the pack to take victory in the 800m at the 1974 European Championships.

He won gold by almost two seconds in 1:44.07 ahead of an 18-year-old Steve Ovett in 1:45.77 and his winning time remains the second fastest in championship history. 

Vigneron and Bubka rewrite the record books

The pole vault at the Rome Golden Gala in 1984 had the anomaly of producing two world records in the same competition. 

France’s Thierry Vigneron cleared 5.91m to eclipse Sergey Bubka’s mark...only for Bubka to regain his world record with his next vault of the competition at 5.94m. 

Kostadinova’s time-defying high jump record

Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova cleared a still-standing world record of 2.09m to win gold in the Stadio Olimpico at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, the last major athletics event to be held in the Italian capital.

This was the defining performance of Kostadinova’s remarkable career although she came very close to settling for silver behind Tamara Bykova. Kostadinova needed three attempts at 2.04m to stay in title contention before second time clearances at 2.06m to win the title and 2.09m to break the world record.

Hattestad’s new figures in the javelin

Trine Hattestad’s farewell season was one to remember. The Norwegian set two world records with the new specification javelin, including a mark of 68.22m in the Rome Golden Gala, before triumphing at the 2000 Olympics in her fifth Olympic appearance.

Duplantis scales 6.15m outdoors 

Given his exploits during the indoor season, it was only a matter of time before Armand Duplantis surpassed Sergey Bubka’s world outdoor best of 6.14m. 

After an understandably tentative start to the season, Duplantis found his groove during the latter weeks of an abbreviated summer season which climaxed with a second-time clearance at 6.15m.

Warholm improves Moses' stadium record

Karsten Warholm rounded off his brief but stupendous international campaign this year with yet another victory in 47.07, his fourth entry into the world’s all-time top-10 in the 400m hurdles.

Warholm also took down two significant records in the process: Abderrahman Samba’s meeting record of 47.48 and Ed Moses’ stadium record of 47.37 set at the World Athletics Championships in Rome 1987.