Who is Jarmila Kratochvilova?

Jarmila Kratochvilova is a retired Czech athlete, best known for setting a world record in the women’s 800 metres which, according to Svetlana Masterkova, gold medallist at the 1996 Summer Olympics, ‘will last for 100 years’. On July 26, 1983 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Kratochvilova clocked a time of 1:53.28, which has yet to be seriously challenged and has the distinction of being the longest-standing individual world record in athletics.

Indeed, at one point in her career, Kratochvilova held world records for both the women’s 800 metres and the women’s 400 metres, having run 47.99 seconds for the shorter event at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki on August 10, 1983. That mark was beaten by her main rival, East German Marita Koch, who clocked 47.60 seconds at the IAAF World Cup in Canberra two years later. Nevertheless, in so doing, Koch set another record that has yet to be seriously challenged and she and Kratochvilova remain the only women in history to 400 metres in under 48 seconds.

Broad-shouldered, muscular and flat-chested, Kratochvilova was suspected of illegal drug use, not least because she emerged from obscurity, at the age of 32, to become a world-class middle distance runner. Secret documents, made public in 2006, revealed that Czech athletes were systematically administered illegal substances under Communism, but Kratochvilova has never been implicated.