Every edition of the Universiade gives athletes a chance to etch their names in the history books. While all those who qualify and enter the Universiade competition arena are champions in their own right, some athletes dazzle on the stage, producing moments that stand the test of time.
Some Universiade Legends announce their arrival to the world’s sporting stage while at the Universiade. Other Legends go on from their university athletic career to attain their storied status, while a few sport icons put a capstone on their careers with dominating Universiade performances.
These are the stories of the Universiade Legends. Check back here from time-to-time. With over eight decades of Universiades to draw on, we have many stories to tell so we will be regularly updating this section.
Hugues Fabrice Zango
2013 Universiade, Kazan: triple jump, sixth place. 2015 Universiade, Gwangju: triple jump silver medal (16.76m). 2017 Universiade, Chinese Taipei: triple jump silver medal (16.97m PB).
Like the hop, step and jump which characterise his athletics event, the Summer Universiades of 2013, 2015 and 2017 have crucially advanced the career of Hugues Fabrice Zango – Burkina Faso's historic high-achiever.
In September 2019 in Doha this ebullient 26-year-old triple jumper became the first track and field athlete from his country to earn a medal at the World Championships as he claimed a surprise bronze in an African record of 17.66 metres.
Zango – who spends winters in France and is studying for a PhD in electrical engineering at university in Lille – produced an effort of 17.77m in Paris in February 2020, putting himself equal fourth on the world indoor all-time list and just 15 centimetres shy of the world indoor record held by his French coach, Teddy Tamgho.
Later in the month, at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Liévin, Zango tried everything he knew to provide what he regarded as his home crowd with a world indoor mark, but had to settle for four escalating jumps of 17m-plus, culminating in a fourth round of 17.51m. He then fouled out on his two final efforts – one of which looked close to or on 18m.
"Every winter I work here," he had said beforehand. "I know the stadium like my pocket. So the stadium is my home and I come here like twice a week, so here is really good."
Zango's performance in Doha – where gold went to defending and Olympic champion Christian Taylor with 17.92m and silver to his US rival Will Claye on 17.74m - was also a model of consistency. Apart from his best, he had four other leaps beyond 17m – 17.18m, 17.46m, 17.29m, and 17.56m.
"First of all, I wanted to get a medal," Zango told World Athletics. "I felt really strong. I was able to fight against the big guys. Next time it will be even better.
"I was in really good shape to do something special and I achieved my goal.
"We are all working on going further and further and working on some technical improvements.
"It means a lot to finish third behind Christian Taylor and Will Claye and beat Pedro Pablo Pichardo to win the bronze medal.
"They all jumped over 18 metres in their careers. For Burkina Faso it is really a big thing. Finally we entered into world athletics, because we have never had a medal on the world level.
"I am the first and I hope more medals will follow. My next goal is to win a medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and make athletics more popular in my country."
Zango began his sports career as a football player before his PE teacher spotted his athletics potential.
"I went to the athletics track and he told me that I was more skilled in jumping events than in running events," Zango said. "This is how I started with triple jump. I then came to France to study electrical engineering at university."
Zango's debut at an international athletics competition was at the 2013 Summer Universaide in the Russian city of Kazan, where he finished sixth with an effort of 15.96m.
By the time of the 2015 Summer Universiade at Gwangju in South Korea, Zango was a far more accomplished performer. He competed in both the long and triple jump, failing to qualify for the final in the former event but earning silver in the latter with 16.76m. Gold went to Russia's Dmitry Sorokin with 17.29m.
Before competing in his third Universiade, Zango went to the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where he failed to qualify, the 2016 African Championships, where he took silver with 16.81m, and the Rio Olympic Games, where he reached 15.99m but failed to go on to the final.
The following year he competed at the Universiade in Chinese Taipei and earned another silver with a personal best of 16.97m, just four centimetres shy of gold medallist Nazim Babayev of Azerbaijan.
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics looming, this is an athlete who looks on the brink of great things.
2005 Winter Universiade, Innsbruck and Seefeld: Gold in the classical mass start 15km, silver in the 5km freestyle and bronze in the individual sprint. 2007 Winter Universiade, Turin: Gold in individual sprint, 5km freestyle and 10km double pursuit.
Competing in the Winter Universiades of 2005 and 2007 earned Polish cross-country skier Justyna Kowalczyk a healthy collection of medals and laid the foundation for an illustrious career in terms of Olympic and World Championship success.
Born in Limanowa, southern Poland, on January 19, 1983, Kowalczyk was 22 when she travelled to her first Winter Universiade, where she collected a complete set of medals in her various competitions at the Seefeld Arena in Austria.
By the time she returned home, Kowalczyk was 23 and the owner of a bronze medal for the individual sprint, a silver for the 5km freestyle and a gold for the classical mass start 15km event.
Two years later, she returned to the FISU arena and earned three individual Universiade golds in the individual sprint, the 5km freestyle and the 10km double pursuit event.
The competition was held in Turin, where a year earlier she had marked her Olympic debut by taking bronze in the 30km freestyle event.
Kowalczyk graduated from the Jerzy Kukuczka University of Physical Education in Katowice with an MA in physical education, and in 2014 completed a Ph.D at the Bronisław Czech University of Physical Education in Krakow.
Two years after her triumphs in Turin, she became world champion in the 15km pursuit and 30km freestyle in Liberec, where she also claimed bronze in the 10km classical competition.
A year later, in Vancouver, she earned a complete set of Olympic medals as she won gold in the 30km classical event, silver in the individual sprint and bronze in the 15km pursuit.
She added another Olympic title four years later in Sochi, where she won the 10km classical event.
Following her initial success in the World Championships, she went on to amass another three silver and two bronze medals between 2011 and 2015.
She made her fourth Olympic appearance in Pyeongchang in 2018, finishing seventh in the team sprint and 14th in the 30km mass start.
1961 Universiade, Sofia: Tennis bronze in the men’s singles and mixed doubles. 1965 Universiade, Budapest: Gold in the men’s singles and mixed doubles, bronze in the men’s doubles
Ion Tiriac first came to public notice as a child table tennis champion, and thereafter as a member of the Romanian ice hockey team that finished 12th in the 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck.
But his name would be made in tennis, first as a player, then as a coach and a promoter of tournaments, as he progressed in life to the point where, in 2010, he was declared by TOP 300 Capital to be the richest man in Romania.
In 2018, Tiriac ranked #1867 on the Forbes World's Billionaires list, with wealth listed at $1.2 billion.
After his Olympic appearance, Tiriac decided to concentrate his energies on tennis, and the following year he got onto the gold standard at the Summer Universiade in Budapest, where he won the singles and mixed doubles titles and took bronze in the men’s doubles.
That brought his collection of FISU medals to five, as he had earned bronze in the singles and mixed doubles four years earlier at the Universiade in Sofia.
As a tennis professional Tiriac won one Grand Prix event, at Munich in 1970, but was mainly known for his successful doubles pairing with fellow countryman Ilie Nastase, who won French and US Open singles titles, and was twice runner-up at Wimbledon.
Tiriac and Nastase were runners-up in the 1966 US Open final, and won the French Open title in 1970, defeating Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell of the United States 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
After retiring, Tiriac coached players including Nastase, Guilermo Vilas, Goran Ivanišević and Marat Safin, and also managed Boris Becker’s career between 1984 and 1993.
On July 13, 2013 he joined the International Tennis Hall of Fame as a successful promoter and tournament director for numerous events including the two of the largest Masters 1000 events, the Italian Open and the Madrid Masters.
1959 Universiade, Turin: Athletics gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m. 1963 Universiade, Porto Alegre: Bronze in the 100m and 200m. 1967 Universiade, Tokyo: Gold in the 4 x100m
The Vialle delle Olimpiad – the Walk of Fame of Italian sport – in Rome’s Olympic Park honours 100 athletes in the nation’s sporting history, each of whom has their name on a tile along with the sport in which they have distinguished themselves.
On May 7, 2015, in the presence of the President of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), a tile bearing the name of Livio Berruti was formally added to the illustrious collection.
Berruti’s performance at the neighbouring Olympic Stadium at the 1960 Games was one of the home highlights as he surprised the watching world by winning the men’s 200 metres gold and twice equalling the world record of 20.5 seconds on the same day.
A year before his breakthrough home performance at the Games, Berruti – a chemistry undergraduate in Turin – had earned three golds at the first FISU-organised Summer Universiade, which was hosted by his native city.
He took the 100m title in 10.5, the 200m title in 20.9 and was part of the team that won the 4x100m gold in 41.0.
The following year, wearing his trademark dark glasses and white socks, Berruti announced his talent with a world record in the semi-finals, reproducing the time in the final later that day to take the Olympic title.
Berruti ran at two more Universiades, adding 100 and 200m bronze medals at the 1963 edition in Porto Alegre before collecting another 4x100m relay gold at the 1967 edition in Tokyo.
He had finished fifth in the Olympic 200m final in Tokyo three years earlier, and he made a third Olympic appearance a year later in Mexico City, reaching the 200m quarter-finals and being part of the 4x100m relay team that finished seventh.
International University Games: 1933,Turin - Athletics silver in the 1500m; 1935, Budapest – gold in the 1500m. 1934 British Empire Games – gold in the 1500m. 1936 Berlin Olympics – gold in the 1500m.
A year before winning the 1936 Olympic 1500 metres title in the Berlin Stadium with an audacious and effective race plan, New Zealander Jack Lovelock had secured the gold medal at what was then known as the International University Games.
There was no need for ingenuity on this occasion as – at a Games held in Budapest – he beat home runner Mihaly Ignatz by almost four seconds as he came home for the 1500m gold in four minutes exactly.
At the 1933 University Games in Turin, Lovelock – who studied medicine at the University of Otago before earning a Rhodes Scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford – had a far harder task. He had taken on the home runner, Luigi Beccali, who had earned the Olympic 1500 title the previous year in a race where Lovelock had finished seventh.
The Italian took gold in 3min 49.2sec, with Lovelock – who earlier in the year had set a world mile record of 4min 07.6sec - earning silver in 3:49.8.
It later emerged that Lovelock had not been in the best of health during his preparation.
But his 1933 defeat would prove a marker for three years of outstanding success.
In 1934, Lovelock won gold in the mile at the British Empire Games, recording 4min 13.0sec. And a year after exchanging silver for gold at the University Games he engineered the victory for which he will best be remembered.
Facing an Olympic 1500m field that included the US runner who had surpassed his own mile world record in 1934, Glenn Cunningham, Lovelock – renowned as a sprinter in the home straight, made a cleverly disguised break from 300 metres out that caught out his opponents and finished a full second inside the world record - 3min 47.8sec. Cunningham took silver in a time that was also inside the previous world mark.
1970 Universiade, Turin: Athletics gold in the long jump (6.84m, world record)
Heide Rosendahl’s haul of two golds and a silver at her home 1972 Olympics in Munich were the culmination of an athletics career that had promised such achievement for more than five years. The West German’s first international flourish came at the 1966 European Championships, where she won silver in the pentathlon, and she upgraded to gold at the 1971 Europeans in Helsinki.
By the time of that victory, she was already long jump world record holder after an astonishing performance at the 1970 Universiade in Turin, where she reached 6.84m, adding two centimetres to the mark set by Romania’s Viorica Viscopoleanu in winning the 1968 Olympic title in the thin air of Mexico City. Rosendahl’s world record stood until 1976.
Rosendahl won the Munich Olympic long jump with 6.78m, beating Bulgaria’s Diana Yorgova by one centimetre, and she anchored the West German team to victory in the 4x100m, holding off East Germany’s individual champion Renate Stecher. She also took silver behind Great Britain’s Mary Peters in a dramatic pentathlon competition.
Rosendahl, German sports person of the year in 1970 and 1972, is the mother of pole vaulter Danny Ecker, 2007 world bronze medallist and European indoor champion.
1973 Universiade, Moscow: Athletics gold in the 400m. 1977 Universiade, Sofia: Gold in the 800m (1:43.44, world record)
This huge and hugely talented Cuban athlete, who was originally steered towards a basketball career, announced his international potential in track and field as he won the 400m title at the 1973 Universiade in Moscow.
Four years later, he secured another Universiade gold in Sofia - this time over 800m.
In between these two victories, the 6ft 2in athlete from Santiago de Cuba produced one of the all-time great Olympic performances at the 1976 Montreal Games as he became the first since Paul Pilgrim at the 1906 Intercalated Olympics to complete the men’s 400m and 800m double.
Juantorena had only taken up two-lap running the previous year, but he led the field in the 800m final for most of the race before clocking a world record time of 1:43.47. Three days later, he added the Olympic title over the single lap in a low-altitude world record of 44.26.
His Universiade career ended with a flourish in Sofia as he improved his own world 800m record to 1:43.44.
1973 Universiade, Moscow: Gymnastics all-around gold
Olga Korbut’s Olympic debut at the 1972 Munich Games earned her gymnastic gold medals for the beam, floor exercise and team competition. But it was the technical daring and emotional impact of this tiny 17-year-old Soviet athlete - known as the Sparrow from Minsk - which was to create a lasting legacy in the history of the sport.
In her first event in Munich, Korbut created uproar as she successfully performed something that no one had tried at an international competition: a backward flip on the 4.5in thick beam. When she slipped and made several errors in the uneven bars, effectively ending her winning chances in the all-around competition where gold went to team-mate Lyudmila Tourischeva, she publicy wept. At the next day’s final of the bars, however, she unleashed the "Korbut flip" - a unique standing back somersault move that had never been seen before. To huge crowd disapproval, her score only earned her silver.
In 1973, she earned home victory at the Universiade in Moscow with a performance that was described as "even more spectacular than Munich".
Hampered by injury at the 1976 Olympics, she nevertheless added another gold in the team event, and took silver in the beam. Korbut graduated from the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in 1977 and retired from gymnastics to become a teacher.
1973 Universiade, Moscow: Athletics gold in the 200m, bronze in the 100m, 4x100m. 1975 Universiade, Rome: Gold in the 100m and 200m. 1979 Universiade, Mexico City: 100m and 200m gold (200m, world record 19.72A)
Italian sprinter Pietro Mennea, who won the Olympic 200m title in 1980, competed in three Universaides, producing one of the competition’s outstanding performances in 1979 as he recorded a 200m world record that lasted for 17 years before Michael Johnson broke it at the 1996 US Olympic trials.
In the rarified atmosphere of Mexico City, Mennea clocked an astonishing 19.72, beating the time of 19.83 Tommie Smith of the US had set on the same track in winning the 1968 Olympic title. The time still stands as the European record.
Mennea’s Universiade career had begun in Moscow six years earlier, a year after he had taken Olympic 200m bronze in Munich. He won the 200m gold in Russia, plus bronze medals in the 100m and 4x100m. In 1975, a year after taking the first of three European titles, the Italian won two more Universiade golds in Rome over 100m and 200m.
His crowning moment arrived in the city where his Universiade career had begun, Moscow, as he lived up to his billing as favourite for the 200m title as he defeated a field including Jamaica’s reigning champion Don Quarrie, 100m silver medallist Silvio Leonard of Cuba and 100m champion Allan Wells of Britain, whom he beat to gold by just 0.02.
1973 Universiade, Moscow: Competed in foil fencing; 1979 Universiade, Mexico City: Competed in foil fencing
While Thomas Bach, now President of the International Olympic Committee, did not earn any medals at the two Summer Universiades in which he took part, his fencing career nevertheless hit the heights during the 1970s.
In 1973, at the World Fencing Championships in Gothenburg, Bach - who earned a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Wurzburg, his native city, in 1983 - won his first big international medal, a silver, as part of the West German men’s foil team.
Three years later, in Montreal, Bach and his West German team-mates Harald Hein, Klaus Reichert, Matthias Behr and Erk Sens-Gorius earned the Olympic gold medal in the men’s team foil, defeating Italy 9-6 in the final.
The following year came another gold medal for the team in the 1977 World Championships at Buenos Aires, and two years later Bach and Co completed their set with a bronze at the World Championships in Melbourne.
FISU President Oleg Matytsin told insidethegames: "You would have to ask him for his memories, but as he said, each Universiade is an unforgettable experience, a moment of excitement which is shared by all athletes.
"I also would say with some pride that Dr Bach is the perfect example of how sport can positively shape leaders. Clearly, he reached the pinnacle of his sport and was able to use success to positively shape his career.
"A world where the leaders of society are positively influenced by their university sport experience is the guiding vision of FISU. What Thomas Bach has achieved, both inside and outside the sports arena, is an embodiment of the FISU vision."
1981 Universiade, Bucharest: Freestyle wrestling (100kg-plus) gold
Baumgartner, one of the most accomplished US wrestlers of all time, ranked as one of the top super-heavyweight freestyle competitors for more than a decade - and his international career got underway with victory in the 100 kilograms-plus freestyle competition at the 1981 Universiade in Bucharest.
The 20-year-old from New Jersey defeated Bulgaria’s Sergey Stoytchev in the final to earn the first of a long sequence of gold medals. His first world championship medal, a bronze, came three years later. He ended with three world titles to his name.
Home Olympic gold in the 130kg freestyle category was delivered in Los Angeles in 1984. Baumgartner had to settle for silver in Seoul four years later after defeat by Davit Gobejishvili, but he earned his revenge over the Georgian in the 1992 Barcelona final to claim a second Games gold.
After his world titles in 1993 and 1995, Baumgartner was favourite to end his Olympic career with another home gold in Atlanta, but a loss to Russian Andrey Shumilin left him with a bronze medal.
1981 Universiade, Bucharest: Gymnastics gold in vault, floor exercise
Romania’s Nadia Comaneci made Olympic history at the 1976 Montreal Games when she became the first gymnast to earn a perfect 10 score, which she did during the team compulsory competition on the uneven bars. By the time those Games finished, the slight, dark-haired 14-year-old had added another six scores of 10 as she won gold in the beam and became the first gymnast from her country to win the individual all-around competition.
At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Comaneci won gold on the beam and floor exercise. Her international career ended a year later as, taller and heavier than she had been in Montreal, she earned two 10 scores at the Universiade in Bucharest to huge home acclaim in what turned out to be her last championship appearance.
Comaneci graduated from the Politehnica University in Bucharest with a degree in Sports Education that qualified her to coach athletics. She defected to the United States in 1989. In 1996, she married US gymnast Bart Conner, a double gold medallist at the 1984 Olympics. The ceremony took place in Bucharest and was televised live throughout Romania.
1983 Universiade, Edmonton: Swimming gold in 200m and 400m individual medley
By the time Alex Baumann competed in the 1983 Universiade at Edmonton, in his adopted country of Canada, his swimming career was already well established. Having taken up the sport aged nine, soon after his family had moved from their native Prague to Sudbury, Ontario in 1969 following the political upheavals in Czechoslovakia, Baumann earned two golds at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia. In winning the 200 metres and 400m individual medleys, he set world and Commonwealth records respectively.
The performances were all the more creditable for the fact that his preparations had been marred by a 10-month absence from the pool because of a chronic shoulder problem.
Baumann, who attended Laurentian University in his home town of Sudbury, Ontario, repeated his Brisbane individual medley victories at the following July’s Universiade, and finished his season by lowering the 400m individual medley world record at the Olympic trials.
Baumann won both the 200m and 400m individual Olympic titles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games - where he was Canada’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony - setting respective world records of 2min 01.42sec and 4:17.41. He thus became one of only six Canadians to have won two Olympic golds.
He added two more Commonwealth medley golds in his last championship appearance at the 1986 Edinburgh Games.
1983 Universiade, Edmonton: Diving gold at 3m springboard and 10m platform
Louganis is the only male and only the second diver in Olympic history to have swept the golds in consecutive Games, which he did in 1984 and 1988.
For many sports followers, however, he will be remembered more clearly for the horrendous accident during the preliminary competition at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when he was left with cuts and concussion after hitting his head on the end of the springboard. Louganis came through, however, responding with the highest single score of the qualifying round with his next effort.
His Universiade success came the year before the Los Angeles Olympics, in Edmonton, and he warmed up well by winning the 3m springboard and 10m platform golds. By then, Louganis, a longtime gay rights activist, was highly experienced, having won 10m platform silver at the 1976 Montreal Olympics at the age of 16 and 10m platform gold at the 1978 World Championships.
Favourite to win Olympic gold four years later, his chances were ended by the US boycott of the Moscow Games. Two years later he won the first of two world championship golden doubles at Guayaquil and Madrid, becoming the first diver in a major international meeting to get a perfect 10 score from all seven judges.
2005 Winter Universiade, Innsbruck: Women’s skeleton gold
Victory in the women’s skeleton event at the 2005 Winter Universiade at Innsbruck in Austria prepared Britain’s Shelley Rudman for an unexpected Olympic flourish at the following year’s Winter Games in Turin.
But in order to take part in those Games, Rudman needed £4,000 ($5,100/€4,800) for a new sled, and her home town of Pewsey helped raise the money with a sponsored canoe event. Once in Turin - Rudman, who took up teaching after doing a BSc at St Mary’s College, Twickenham - was aiming for a top-10 finish, but after being fastest in practice, she took fourth place in her first run and claimed silver with second place in the final run.
Despite recording the fastest second run at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, she only finished sixth. But her competitive standing took another huge upward jump in 2013 when she secured the world title before making a final Olympic appearance in Sochi the following year.
2007 Winter Universiade, Turin: Speed skating gold at 500m. 2009 Winter Universaide, Harbin: Gold at 500m, bronze at 100m.
South Korean speed skater Lee established a winning pattern ahead of her consecutive 500m victories at the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. At the 2007 and 2009 Winter Universiades, this hugely competitive athlete earned gold over the same distance.
Her exploits in Vancouver and Sochi meant her becoming the first woman since Canada's Catriona Le May Doan at the 2002 Games to defend her gold at the event. She also became the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic golds at the 500m, and was the first Korean to do so.
Lee established herself on the international scene with a bronze medal in the all-around competition at the 2005 World Junior Championships and another bronze, over 500m, at the World Championships. The world title over 500m was hers in 2012, 2013 and 2016.
She is also the 500m women’s world record holder thanks to her time of 36.36 set in Salt Lake City in 2013.