Nina Grigoryevna Otkalenko

23 May 1928
13 May 2015
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Nina Grigoryevna Otkalenko ( 23 May 1928 – 13 May 2015) was a Soviet middle-distance runner. She won a European title in the 800 m at the inaugural 1954 European Athletics Championships and set multiple world records in this event in 1951–54. She missed the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, where women’s middle-distance events were not part of the program, and the 1960 Olympics due to an injury.

In the 1950s Otkalenko became the most successful record breaker in the women’s 800 m event. Starting with a world record of 2:12.0 minutes in 1951, she went on to improve her own 800 metres world record four more times. Spearheading a significant improvement in women’s times in the event over her career, her last world record of 2:05.0 minutes in 1955 stood for almost five years, before it was beaten by her compatriot Lyudmila Shevtsova. She ranked number one in the world in the 800 m every year from 1951 to 1958, bar 1956 and 1957 when she ranked second to Lyudmila Lysenko and Yelizaveta Yermolayeva. She also set world records in the pre-IAAF era, with a 400 m record of 55.5 in 1954 and a 1500 m record of 4:37.0 minutes in 1952.

Outside of her European title, she won medals at the World Festival of Youth and Students, twice winning the 800 m title in 1953 and 1955, as well as taking 400 metres silver medals at both those championships. She was highly successful in domestic competition, ending her career with a total of 22 Soviet titles in track and field and cross country disciplines.

Personal bests

  • 400 metres – 55.0 seconds (1954)
  • 800 metres – 2.05.0 minutes (1955)
  • 1500 metres – 4:37.0 minutes (1952)

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