On 21 September 2000, French athlete Marie-José Pérec fled the Olympic village without competing in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Pérec claimed that she had been threatened and insulted several times since arriving in Australia and that the Australian press, who were supporting Australian athlete Cathy Freeman, had been trying to sabotage her chances of winning the gold medal in the 400 metres.
Marie-José Pérec was born 9 May 1968. She is a retired French track and field sprinter who specialised in the 200 and 400 metres and is a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Pérec won the 1991 World Championships 400 metres title in Tokyo and repeated the feat at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. She was the 400 metres champion at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Four years later, she entered the 200 metres and 400 metres events at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and won both, thus achieving the second-ever Olympic 200 metres/400 metres gold medal double (the first was achieved by Valerie Brisco-Hooks in Los Angeles in 1984).
In 1996, Pérec won the 400 metres title in an Olympic record time of 48.25 seconds, which also ranked her as the third fastest woman of all time. It took 23 years until 2019 before Salwa Eid Naser, surpassed her mark to push Pérec to number 4 of all time.
In addition to her Olympic and World titles, Pérec also won the 400 metres title and was a part of the gold medal-winning 4 × 400 metres relay team at the 1994 European Championships in Helsinki.
The two 1996 Olympic titles were Pérec’s last international titles. On 22 September 2000, she officially pulled out of the 200 metres and 400 metres events of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, several days before they were due to begin.
Pérec trained in Los Angeles, California, with the HSI track team and is listed as a legend on the team’s page.
Life after retirement from athletics
Pérec enrolled in the top French business school ESSEC and graduated in 2007 with a Master’s in Sports Management.
Pérec is a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club, a group of more than 70 famous elite athletes committed to promoting peace in the world through sports, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization.
On 21 October 2012, Pérec was elected president of the Ligue Régionale d’Athlétisme de la Guadeloupe, the governing body for athletics in Guadeloupe.
Pérec participated in the French reality music competition Mask Singer as the Panthère, performing Stromae’s “Papaoutai” and Angèle’s “Balance ton quoi” before being eliminated in the first episode.
Pérec gave birth to her first child, a son named Nolan, on 30 March 2010. Pérec’s partner Sébastien Foucras is the father of the child.
Pérec was chosen as the French Champion of Champions in 1992 and 1996 by the French sports daily L’Équipe.
On 9 October 2013, Pérec was awarded the Officier de la Légion d’honneur by French President François Hollande in the Élysée Palace. Just before presenting the insignia to Pérec during the award ceremony, Hollande described her as “one of the most brilliant athletes in the history of French athletics”. Pérec had received the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1996.
On 16 November 2013, Pérec was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame.