Josiah Thugwane - South Africa - 1996 Olympic Games marathon gold medal.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 04 August 1996

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      Thursday, 15 April 1971
      Bethal, South Africa.
  • South Africa
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Josiah THUGWANE - South Africa - 1996 Olympic Games marathon gold medal.


Growing up in poverty in South Africa, Josiah Thugwane started his running career competing for small amounts of money in road races, and in intercompany competition representing the mining company for which he worked. Thugwane's first marathon was at Witbank in April 1990, where he finished 2nd in 2hr 22min 24sec. Josiah then won his next two marathon starts, recording 2hr18min 00sec at Nelspruit in February 1991, and then 2hr 13min 36sec at Cape Town two months later. After a number of domestic successes, Thugwane attempted a number of international marathons, initially with disappointing results. Eventually, a win in the 1995 Honolulu marathon seemed to give him the breakthrough he needed, and his win at the 1996 national championships in Cape Town earned him selection to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.


In the Olympic marathon on 4 August, a large leading pack stayed in contact with each other for most of the race, until at 35km, in a move initiated by Thugwane, he and two other runners, Lee Bong-ju (Korea) and Erick Wainaina (Kenya), managed to make a break from the rest of the field. These three staged a stirring battle over the final 5km, with Thugwane managing to create a slight break on the other two just before they entered the stadium. Josiah successfully led their dash to the finish, winning the gold medal only three seconds ahead of Lee (see photo above) for the closest Olympic marathon finish ever. Following his Olympic victory, Thugwane had a very successful year in 1997, lowering his personal best twice, culminating in a win at Fukuoka in a career best time of 2hr 07min 28sec.


His career after that was disappointing, failing to finish in three successive marathons, and only finishing 20th in the 2000 Sydney Olympic marathon when defending his Olympic title. (Ron Casey)


He won three other top marathons.

1995    Honolulu Marathon    Honolulu, Hawaii    1st    Marathon    2:16:08

1997    Fukuoka Marathon    Fukuoka, Japan    1st    Marathon    2:07:28 (Best time of career.)

2002    Nagano Marathon    Nagano, Japan    1st    Marathon    2:13:23.


His annual best times are as follows.

2006     2:17:11     Warszawa     17 SEP
2002     2:10:05     Seoul     03 NOV
2001     2:11:52     Seoul     18 MAR
2000     2:10:29     London     16 APR
1997     2:07:28     Fukuoka     07 DEC
1996     2:12:36     Atlanta, GA