BY DAN PALMER
Italy’s two-time Olympic 800 metres finalist Donato Sabia has died from coronavirus at the age of 56.
The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) reported that he is the first known Olympic finalist anywhere in the world to die from COVID-19.
Sabia finished fifth in the 800m at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics and was then seventh four years later at Seoul 1988.
His major accomplishment during his career was winning gold in the 800m at the 1984 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
He was also a former world record holder in the seldom-competed 500m, setting a time of 1min 0.8sec in May 1984 in Busto Arsizio.
After competing, Sabia served as chairman of the Italian Athletics Federation’s (FIDAL) Basilicata Regional Committee.
He died in San Carlo hospital in Potenza after spending time in intensive care.
Alfio Giomi, the President of FIDAL, said: “This is a tragedy in a tragedy.
“Donato was a person you couldn’t help but love.”
Italy has been severely impacted by coronavirus, recording more than 135,000 cases.
Its death count of more than 17,000 is the highest in the world.
“Italian and Olympic sport thus prematurely loses a great athlete who, having abandoned the track, was now making his contribution to athletics by presiding over the regional FIDAL Committee of Basilicata,” CONI said.
“The President of CONI, Giovanni Malagò, deeply saddened, expresses the personal condolences of the whole Italian National Olympic Committee to Donato’s relatives and to the whole athletics world who has lost today a great protagonist, a great man and a great champion.”