ROISSY AIRPORT NEAR PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - AUGUST 6, 1996) (RTV/FR3 - ACCESS ALL)
1. FRENCH THREE-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL SPRINTER, MARIE-JOSE PEREC, BEING GREETED BY CROWDS WHILE ARRIVING TO PARIS FOLLOWING THE 1996 OLYMPICS IN ATLANTA
2. THEN PRIME MINISTER, ALAIN JUPPE, GREETING PEREC ON HER ARRIVAL
PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - SEPTEMBER 6, 1996) (POOL - ACCESS ALL)
3. VARIOUS OF PEREC RECEIVING THE LEGION OF HONOUR FROM THEN-PRESIDENT, JACQUES CHIRAC
4. VARIOUS OF FRENCH OLYMPIC ATHLETES POSING FOR GROUP SHOT WITH PRESIDENT CHIRAC
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (FILE - SEPTEMBER, 2000) (NINE NET - NO USE AUSTRALIA /INTERNET)
5. VARIOUS OF PEREC ARRIVING AT SYDNEY AIRPORT FOR THE OLYMPICS AND BEING HOUNDED BY PRESS/RUNNING AWAY FROM PRESS
SINGAPORE (SEPTEMBER 21, 2000) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)
6. VARIOUS OF PEREC AND HER THEN-FIANCE, ANTHUAN MAYBANK, WALKING THROUGH CHANGI AIRPORT TO FLIGHT GATE
ROISSY AIRPORT NEAR PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - JULY 4, 2005) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)
7. PEREC AND FENCING OLYMPIC MEDALLIST, LAURA FLAISSEL, ARRIVING AT AIRPORT AS PART OF DELEGATION TO TRAVEL TO SINGAPORE TO PUT THEIR WAIT BEHIND THE PARIS BID FOR THE 2012 OLYMPICS
8. PEREC SPEAKING TO MEDIA (NOT A SOUNDBITE)
9. VARIOUS OF DELEGATION GATHERING AT AIRPORT AND POSING FOR PICTURES
10. PEREC BOARDING FLIGHT
PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - FEBRUARY 17, 2016) (REUTERS STILLS - ACCESS ALL) (MUTE)
11. STILL OF PEREC HOLDING LOGO FOR PARIS 2024 GAMES AS SHE ATTENDS THE PRESENTATION OF THE PARIS CANDIDACY
PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - OCTOBER 9, 2013) (REUTERS STILLS - ACCESS ALL) (MUTE)
12. STILL OF THEN FRENCH PRESIDENT, FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, AWARDING PEREC WITH THE 'LEGION D'HONNEUR ET DE L'ORDRE NATIONAL DU MÉRITE' AT A CEREMONY AT THE ELYSEE PALACE
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - AUGUST 1, 1996) (REUTERS STILLS - ACCESS ALL)
13. STILL OF PEREC WINNING THE WOMEN'S 200M WITH JAMAICA'S MERLENE OTTEY TAKING SILVER AND MARY ONYALI OF NIGERIA TAKING BRONZE
14. ANOTHER STILL OF PEREC WINNING THE WOMEN'S 200M
15. PEREC (CENTRE), OTTEY (RIGHT), AND ONYALI (LEFT) ON PODIUM AT MEDALS CEREMONY
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - JULY 31, 1996) (REUTERS STILLS - ACCESS ALL)
16. PEREC OFF THE BLOCKS DURING A 200M HEAT
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - JULY 29, 1996) (REUTERS STILLS - ACCESS ALL)
17. STILL OF PEREC RUNNING THE 400M FINAL IN WHICH SHE TOOK GOLD AND SET A NEW OLYMPIC RECORD OF 48.25
ATLANTA, GEORGIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - JULY 29, 1996) (REUTERS VIA ACTION IMAGES - MUST COURTESY ACTION IMAGES)
18. PEREC HOLDING FRENCH FLAG AFTER WINNING 400M GOLD
STORY: The greatest French athlete of all time, Marie-Jose Perec will be remembered for gracing the track with her elegant stride, but also for mysteriously walking away from her last Olympics.
Nicknamed 'the Gazelle' for her wiry figure and speed, she won the 400 metres gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 before claiming a rare 200-400 metres double four years later in Atlanta.
Perec, born in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe, came to athletics by chance.
"While growing up, I never wanted to become an athlete, never dreamt of it," said Perec, who turns 52 on Saturday.
"As a kid I was fishing or playing on the sea. Back in Guadeloupe, I didn't play any sport. It just happened by chance. One of my sports teacher discovered that I was very fast and that is how it started."
After she won 400m gold at the Tokyo world championships in 1991, her career peaked in 1996, when she was training under the guidance of Jim Smith in a group also featuring sprinters Ato Boldon and Maurice Greene.
She beat Jamaica's Merlene Ottey to win the 200 metres before crushing the field to prevail in the 400 metres. That second race was, she said, a 'mere formality'.
Her Olympic record time of 48.25 is still the fourth fastest in history.
The achievement makes Perec one of three athletes to win both the 200 and the 400 metres at the same Games after American Valerie Brisco-Hooks (1984) and the only male athlete to claim both, American Michael Johnson.
She is also with Johnson the only athlete to win two 400 metres Olympic titles.
It went pear-shaped after Atlanta, where her remarkable achievement had somehow been overshadowed by that of Johnson.
Perec sustained several injuries and suffered from the energy-sapping Epstein-Barr virus and she eventually had to skip the 1999 world championships.
She still managed to qualify for the 2000 Games and her 400m showdown with Australian Cathy Freeman was topping the bill of the Sydney Olympics.
Secluded in a hotel outside of the Olympic village, Perec fled Australia amid a media frenzy shortly before the race, claiming a man had forced her way into her hotel room and threatened her.
"In Sydney I thought that I was preparing myself for a 400 metres, and instead I turned up to find I was taking on a whole country," she said.
"There was so much aggressiveness towards me, it was too much and I cracked."
Perec retired in 2004 after failing to make a comeback for the 2003 world championships in Paris.
(Production: Kurt Michael Hall)