Carlos Lopes

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Carlos Lopes
Carlos Lopes2.jpg
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing  Portugal
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1984 Los Angeles Marathon
Silver medal – second place 1976 Montreal 10,000 m
World Cross Country Championships
Gold medal – first place 1976 Chepstow Long course
Gold medal – first place 1984 East Rutherford Long course
Gold medal – first place 1985 Lisbon Long course
Silver medal – second place 1977 Düsseldorf Long course
Silver medal – second place 1983 Gateshead Long course

Carlos Alberto de Sousa Lopes, GCIH (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈkaɾluʃ ˈlɔpɨʃ], born 18 February 1947) is a Portuguese former long-distance runner. He won the marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, becoming Portugal's first-ever Olympic gold medalist and setting an Olympic record for the event. In 1985, Lopes set the marathon world record at 2:07:12 at the Rotterdam Marathon.

Early life[edit]

Carlos Lopes was born in Vildemoinhos, near Viseu, Portugal. He worked as a stonecutter's helper. Lopes wanted to play football at his local club, but his father opposed this, so he turned to other forms of athletics. In 1967 he was invited to join the athletics team of Sporting Clube de Portugal, and remained there until the end of his career in 1985.[1]


Lopes' 1976 campaign began with a victory at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Chepstow, Wales. Competing in the 10,000 meters at the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics, Lopes set the pace from the 4000m mark, and the only athlete to follow him was defending double Olympic champion Lasse Virén. Virén passed Lopes with a lap to go to win the gold medal, and Lopes finished a comfortable second. Lopes ran the first 5,000 metres in 14:08.94, and the second 5,000 metres in 13:36.23, a remarkable proof of his ability to steadily accelerate his pace. What he generally lacked in the track races, however, was an ability to sharply increase his pace in the final lap or so.[2]

He failed to regain his cross-country title, in Düsseldorf (1977), finishing second.

After the superb 1976 season, Lopes slipped back into the same relative obscurity in which he had been before 1976, failing to qualify for the Moscow Olympics due to several injuries.

In 1982, he returned to top form, and in Oslo, he broke the 10,000 m European record — 27:24.39 — which belonged to his teammate Fernando Mamede. After setting the pace from 6,000 metres to 9800 meters at the 1982 European Athletics Championships 10,000-metre race, he finished fourth in 27:47.95, behind Italy's Alberto Cova, East Germany's Werner Schildhauer, and Finland's Martti Vainio.[3][4][5] In 1983, he finished second at the World Cross Country Championships in Gateshead.

Lopes attempted his first marathon at the 1982 New York City Marathon, but he did not finish due to an accident in which he crashed into a spectator. The following year, he made his second attempt at the marathon, this time at Rotterdam. He finished a close second in a European record time of 2:08:39, just two seconds behind the race victor, Robert de Castella of Australia. Lopes decided to run the 10,000 m at the first World Championships, in Helsinki, where he finished sixth. After that he decided to concentrate on the marathon.

In 1984, Lopes regained his cross-country world title in New Jersey front of thousands of ecstatic Portuguese emigrants.[citation needed] In Stockholm, he helped teammate Fernando Mamede to break Henry Rono's 10,000 m world record of 27:22.5,[6] with Mamede winning in 27:13.81 and Lopes finishing second in 27:17.48.

An accident almost prevented Lopes from participating in the 1984 Olympics when, a week before the Games, he was run over by a car in Lisbon. Amazingly, he was not hurt. The Olympic marathon at Los Angeles was run in very warm conditions, and as the favorites gradually fell away, it was the 37-year-old Lopes who led the field into the stadium and won the gold medal with a 200m advantage and in an Olympic record 2:09:21. With this victory, he improved his reputation as a runner, because he could run the last 7.2 kilometres (4.5 mi) at an average speed of 2:55 per km (4:42 per mile), a remarkably quick pace at the end of a marathon.[7][8] Portugal erupted in celebration of its first ever Olympic gold. Lopes' Olympic record stood until the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, when Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru won with a time of 2:06:32.

In 1985, Lopes won the cross-country world championship, held in his home country, for the third and final time in his career.

In the last major competitive race of his career, the 1985 Rotterdam Marathon, Lopes took 53 seconds off the world's best marathon time, setting a new standard of 2:07.12, and becoming the first man to run 42.195 km in less than 2 h 8 min.

  • L'Équipe: "Fantastic! Extraordinary! There aren't enough strong words to label Lopes Rotterdam achievement. In less than 3 years, he became the first man to approach the unreal. Who would think, 20 years ago, that a man would run the marathon at 20 km/h?"'[citation needed]
  • Rotterdam press: "With his magic talent, Carlos Lopes took 54 seconds off the previous world best. With his fabulous pace he reached the world record with apparent ease. It's said he received US$150,000 just to come to Rotterdam, plus US$67,000 in prizes. A lot of money for a single man. But, in marathon's fantasy world, only a man—aged 38—is able to run it in 2:07.12: Carlos Lopes".[citation needed]


Popular culture[edit]

  • Lopes appears in the 14th episode of season 12 of The Simpsons, as Homer is watching a documentary about the Olympics' greatest moments on TV. Lopes (whose surname is misspelled as Lopez) is credited with being the oldest ever winner of the marathon, at 38, and inspires Homer, who claims to be almost his age, to enter the Springfield Marathon. Lopes was actually 37 when he won the 1984 Olympic marathon.


  1. ^ "World Best Progressions- Road".
  2. ^ Raevuori, Antero (1976). Lasse Virén: The Gilded Spikes. Helsinki: Weilin+Göös.
  3. ^ Huippu-urheilun tähtihetkiä.
  4. ^ "Elävä arkisto".
  5. ^ Siukonen, Markku (1990). The Big European Championships Book. Jyväskylä, Finland: Sportti Kustannus / Publishing Ltd.
  6. ^ Wunsche, Wolfgang (1984). Heroes of the Race Tracks. Helsinki.
  7. ^ Juoksija. 1984. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Suuri Olympiakirja. Helsinki.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Steve Jones
Men's Marathon World Record Holder
20 April 1985 – 17 April 1988
Succeeded by
Belayneh Dinsamo
Preceded by
Waldemar Cierpinski
Men's Marathon Olympic Record Holder
12 August 1984 – 24 August 2008
Succeeded by
Kenya Samuel Wanjiru
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Maria Manuela Contreiras
Olympic Medal Nobre Guedes
Succeeded by
Armando Marques
Hugo d'Assumpção
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Steve Jones
Men's Fastest Marathon Race
Succeeded by
Robert de Castella