News01 Feb 2024

French middle-distance ace Jazy dies


French middle-distance runner Michel Jazy (© AFP / Getty Images)

World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that Michel Jazy, France’s 1960 Olympic 1500m silver medallist and multiple world record-breaker, died on Thursday (1) at the age of 87.

As well as his Olympic medal win in Rome, Jazy finished fourth in the Olympic 5000m final in Tokyo four years later and claimed two European titles.

He set a total of nine world records, including 3:53.6 for the mile in 1965 and 4:56.2 for 2000m in his final race in October 1966.

Michel Jazy with Kip Keino at the Heritage Mile Night in Monaco, November 2019

Michel Jazy with Kip Keino at the Heritage Mile Night in Monaco, November 2019 (© World Athletics Heritage)

Jazy was born on 13 June 1936 in Oignies, France, into a coal-mining family from Poland. His early athletics success included winning national age group titles and he went on to make his Olympic debut at the age of 20, finishing seventh in his heat at the Games in Melbourne in 1956.

At that event he shared a room with Alain Mimoun, that year’s Olympic marathon champion, who helped to inspire Jazy. Jazy became an Olympic medallist himself in Rome four years later, securing 1500m silver in 3:38.4 – one of a remarkable 49 French records he would set during his career – behind Australia’s Herb Elliott in a world record of 3:35.6.

Jazy won the first of his European titles in Belgrade in 1962, running 3:40.9 to claim the 1500m title. He doubled that European gold medal haul in Budapest in 1966 and also added a silver medal to his CV, winning the 5000m in a championship record of 13:42.8 three days after his runner-up finish in the 1500m.

The schedule hadn’t allowed him to contest the 1500m and 5000m double at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and so he decided to focus on the longer discipline. After winning his heat he finished a close fourth in the final, recording the same time – 13:49.8 – as USA’s bronze medallist Bill Dellinger.

Jazy rebounded by breaking multiple world records the following year, all four – in the mile, 3000m, two miles and the 4×1500m – achieved in the June of 1965.

In total, he set one mile world record (3:53.6 in 1965), two world 2000m records (5:01.6 in 1962 and 4:56.2 in 1966), two world 3000m records (7:49.2 in 1962 and 7:49.0 in 1965), and two world two-mile records (8:29.6 in 1963 and 8:22.6 in 1965) as well as forming part of two world record-breaking 4×1500m teams (in 1961 and 1965).

"The athletics family is in mourning. With the death of Michel Jazy, we lose a legend of our sport," said Andre Giraud, president of the French athletics federation. "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."

World Athletics

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