Juan Carlos Zabala

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Juan Carlos Zabala
Jczabala 1931.jpg

Juan Carlos Zabala a.k.a. "El Ñandú Criollo" (October 11, 1911 – January 24, 1983) was an Argentine athlete, winner of the marathon race at the 1932 Summer Olympics.


Born in Rosario, Argentina, Juan Carlos Zabala played football and basketball and did some swimming, before he met his future coach Alexander Stirling in 1927.

He ran his first marathon at the end of October, 1931. Ten days later he ran a new world record in 30 km (1:42:30.4). Later, before the 1936 Summer Olympics, Zabala would run a new world record in 20 km (1:04:00.2).

Zabala's high peak was the Los Angeles Olympics. Zabala ran in the lead group almost the entire distance. With just four kilometres to run, he broke free to finish 20 seconds ahead of Sam Ferris from Great Britain. Zabala also participated at the 1936 Summer Olympics, gaining sixth place at the 10,000 m, but could not defend his Olympic title in the marathon. Zabala took the lead from the start, but abandoned the race after 33 km when the main group caught him.

Juan Carlos was the flag bearer for Argentina at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Summer Olympics.

He died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, aged 71.