Track & Field

Throwback Thursday: El Caballo Alberto Juantorena

Alberto Juantorena, known in Cuba as El Caballo and White Lightning the world over is best known for his incredible achievement at the 1976 Summer Olympics where he became the first and so far only athlete to win both the 400 and 800m Olympic titles.

El Caballo winning 800 in 1976

El Caballo winning 800 in 1976

As a fourteen year old he was 188 cm or 6 ft 2 in tall so he was at first ushered into Basketball but Polish track coach, Zygmunt Zabierzowski, convinced him to start running seriously. Describing himself as a ‘bad’ basketball player, he took to the sport with enthusiasm.Less than one year later, Juantorena was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 400 m event at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Four years later he was entered in both the 400m and the 800m. Juantorena had only taken up 800m that season so few predicted he would do well. He made it to the Olympic final, and led the field for most of the race, eventually winning in a world record time of 1:43.50. Only three days later, he also won the 400 meter final, setting a low-altitude world record of 44.26. In 1977, he set another world record in the 800, running 1:43.44 in Sofia at the World University Games where yet again completed the 400m and 800m double.

Alberto Juantorena strides out over 400m

Alberto Juantorena strides out over 400m

His later career was mired with injury. He went out in the first round of 400m in Moscow 1980 and later broke his foot in 1983 World Championships, stepping on inside of track. He tried to come back for 1984 L.A Olympics but Cuba boycotted the Games ending El Caballo’s incredible career.

Below is an example of a training week in March 1976 from his training diary as well a video of his astonishing double

Special Preparation Mesocycle – 1976

3/15 Special Training on Grass
1) Warm up + gymnasium
2) 2 km cross + special endurance
3) 5 x 350 + speed endurance
4) 6 x 200 + skipping 5 x 200 + cross (uphill skipping) 2 km all very fast

3/16 Special Training on track
1) Warm up + gymnasium
2) Progressive series – 3 x 100m.
3) Starts from blocks 3 x 30m.
4) Relative speed 10 x 200m. (mean speed 23.6 sec.)

3/17 Track Special Training
1) Warm up + gymnasium
2) Progressive series – 3 x 100m
3) Special endurance 5 x 600m (mean speed 1:25.6)

1) Warm up + gymnasium
2) 9 km cross

1) Warm up + gymnasium
2) Strength special exercises, jummps over hurdles
3) 3 x 100m progressive series
4) Starts off blocks – 3 x 30m
5) Relative speed 8 x 200m (mean speed 23.18 sec.)


1) Warm up, gymnasium
2) 3 x 100 progressive series
3) Starts off blocks 3 x 100m
4) Special endurance 2 x 600m + 2 x 400m
a. Mean speed 600m = 1:21.9
b. Mean speed 400m = 48.25

*Skipping :To this we added a power task (skipping) carried out with consecutive jumps uphill, on grass using the body weight only.

*The hill reps and sprints would be full recovery. The sprints would be out of blocks (if possible) to work on form/mechanics.

*Cross is Steady Running

Makhloufi Taoufik
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Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan is an athlete, coach, athletics fan and, most importantly, was once named Bandon AFC's under-12 Player of the Year. He was once a promising athlete but is now a promising coach, teacher and part-time athletics writer/broadcaster. While an 800m runner himself, Ronan has coached everything from pole vault to 10km with varying levels of bluffing. He has regularly been threatening to do something for years but is yet to deliver. He is regarded as our expert on the American running scene, though has yet, to prove his knowledge in this realm.

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