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Former Triple-Jump Champ Dies

May 30, 1999 GMT

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ Joao Carlos de Oliveira, who held the world triple jump record for a decade and later lost a leg in an accident, is dead.

Oliveira died late Saturday at the Beneficencia Portugesa Hospital in Sao Paulo where he was admitted a month ago with lung and liver ailments, said hospital spokesman Manuel Veras.

The Brazilian jumper became a national hero when he set the world record with a jump of 58 feet-8 1-4 inches at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico, a mark that stood for 10 years.

He also won bronze medals in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, and Brazilians dubbed him ``Joao do Pulo″ _ Portuguese for ``Jumping John.″

``He continues to be for me one of the 10 best athletes the world has seen,″ said Oliveira’s former trainer Pedro do Toledo in a televised interview. ``He could have done much more if he had been born at a different time, in a different country...″

In 1981, Oliveira’s car was hit head-on by a drunk driver going the wrong way at night on an interstate highway. Oliveira was seriously injured, and doctors amputated his right leg.

Oliveira reportedly become depressed after unsuccessful ventures in business and politics and became an alcoholic, which undermined his health.

Despite his difficulties, he had wanted to compete in the ParaOlympics in Sydney next year ``if not to win, to set an example″, Toledo said.

Brazil’s sports minister Rafael Greca said Oliveira ``enters the gallery of Brazilian Olympic heroes″ and should be remembered for his conquests, not for the period in which his life ``fell down″.

On Sunday, mourners paid tribute to Oliveira whose body was taken to the Legislative Assembly building in Sao Paulo and draped in a Brazilian flag.

He was to be buried Monday in his home town of Pindamonhangaba, some 90 miles northeast of Sao Paulo.