Soviet middle-distance runner Nina Otkalenko on her way to setting an 800m world record () © Copyright
Iaaf News Monaco

Former world record-holder and 1954 European 800m champion Otkalenko dies

The IAAF is saddened to learn of the death of former 800m world record-holder Nina Otkalenko, who passed away on Wednesday (13) after a long illness, just 10 days shy of her 87th birthday.

Born in Kursk in May 1928, Otkalenko (nee Pletnyova) first came to prominence at the age of 23 when she broke the 800m world record with a time of 2:12.0 in Minsk.

It was the first of five world records that the Soviet runner set at the distance. She went on to run 2:08.5 in 1952, 2:07.3 in 1953, 2:06.6 in 1954 and finally 2:05.0 in 1955; a performance which remained the world record until 1960.

No other woman has set more world records at 800m.

She also excelled at other distances. In 1952 she clocked a world best of 4:37.0 over 1500m, then two years later she set a world best over 400m with 55.5.

She won 22 national titles across various distances as well as on the cross country. In 1953 she won 800m gold and 400m silver at the World University Games.

Unfortunately for Otkalenko, her three strongest disciplines were not contested at the Olympics until 1960. Otkalenko was still active that season, but struggled with an injury and failed to qualify for the Games in Rome.

But the highlight of her career came six years earlier when she struck gold at the European Championships in Bern, winning the 800m with a championship record of 2:08.8.

IAAF