The IAAF is saddened to learn that Hungarian javelin thrower Ferenc Paragi died on Thursday (21) at the age of 62 after suffering a heart attack.
Born in Budapest in 1953, Paragi started throwing in his early teens and it soon became clear that he had talent. He first cracked the 70-metre barrier at the age of 16 and within two years he had improved to a world junior record of 80.06m in 1972.
Paragi made a big breakthrough in 1975, winning the Hungarian title with a throw of 85.74m and then extending his best to 89.92m, ending the year as the world’s third-best javelin thrower.
He competed at the 1976 Olympics, aged 22 at the time, but finished a disappointing 20th overall in the qualifying round while compatriot Miklos Nemeth went on to win gold with a world record of 94.58m.
Paragi rebounded in 1977, though. In July that year he became the second Hungarian man in history to throw beyond 90 metres, sending his javelin out to 90.40m. He went on to win his third national title in a row, breaking the championship record with 89.50m, and then ended the year with a personal best of 91.92m to rank second in the world behind Nemeth.
At the 1978 European Championships in Prague, Paragi led the qualifying round with a season’s best of 86.04m, but in the final he was some way off his best and finished ninth.
He won another national title in 1979, improved his best to 92.14m in Koblenz and was named as the Hungarian athlete of the year, but his best was yet to come.
Having opened his 1980 campaign with a 92.10m throw in Auckland, Paragi smashed the world record by more than two metres in the Hungarian town of Tata in April that year, throwing 96.72m. It was the single biggest improvement on a javelin world record for 16 years.
Less than a month later, he came close to his world record figures when winning in Cwmbran with 96.20m. For the best part of three years, he owned the two best javelin marks in history.
But further championship disappointment came later that summer when he finished 10th at the Olympic Games in Moscow. He had led the qualifying round by almost three metres with 88.76m; that distance would have been enough for a medal in the final.
He didn’t manage to throw beyond 90 metres again after 1980, but he won his fifth and last national title in 1982 and continued competing at a high level well into the mid-1980s.
After retiring from competitive athletics, Paragi worked as a coach. In recent years he had worked with Dutch thrower Ronald Hertog, helping guide him to the bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympics.