Thugwane Makes Marathon History
Byline: NEIL WILSON
HISTORY was made twice at the Centennial Olympics yesterday when Josia Thugwane pulled away over the final mile to become the first South African black to win a gold medal in the closest ever marathon finish.
A small but noisy crowd in the Olympic Stadium was treated to the unprecedented sight of the first three sprinting around the final lap of the track to decide the medals.
Thugwane, a 25-year-old security guard at a mineworkers' hostel, was ambushed in his car in April and needed hospital treatment when a bullet ricocheted into his face.
`Three or four men got in my car and made me drive away,' he said. `They told me to hand over the keys but I refused and there was a bit of a scuffle. They produced a gun and there was shooting. I jumped out of the car while it was still moving and that's how it ended.'
A scar was still vivid on his chin as he entered the stadium first about 40 metres ahead, but he held off South Korea's Lee Bong-ju by only three seconds in 2:12:36 with Kenyan Eric Wainaina a further five seconds behind him. The previous closest winning margin was 12.8sec at the Antwerp Games of 1920.
Thugwane's unexpected victory, which came four days after Hezekiel Sepeng won silver in the 800m to become the first black South African to win an Olympic medal, is the country's first in the marathon since 1912 when Irish-born Ken McArthur, who had emigrated there seven years previously, won in Stockholm. …