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.
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