For the first time an Olympic Champion was in the elite field of the Vienna City Marathon recently. In hot temperatures Josia Thugwane dropped out, but he does not give in. Being written off by some media Josia Thugwane, South Africa’s marathon gold medal winner from Atlanta in 1996, says: “A lot of people think Josia is finished but I know that I can run some more good marathons – there is always a chance for me.”
2:07:28 in Fukuoka
Josia Thugwane, who turned 34 in May, admits that he did not perform well during the last two years. But that he says was injury related. The South African features a personal best of 2.07.28 from his win in Fukuoka in 1997.
Despite what happened in Vienna Josia Thugwane, who has recently bought an 80 acre farm near Pretoria and moved there with his wife and three children, does not think about the end of his career. The first black Olympic Champion from South Africa says: “I think I can continue running on a high level for quite some more years. And once I will finish my international marathon career I intend to run South Africa’s ultra road races like the Comrades Marathon.”
Josia Thugwane is used to tackle difficult situations and come back. Few athletes will have experienced such extreme ups and downs as the small South African, who measures just 1,58 m. That relates not just to his sport but also the personal situation. Once the former employee of a mine became a successful runner he and his family were under threat. “It all started when I won the South African Championship in 1996 and qualified for Atlanta. Then it got worse after the Olympics since I was on TV shows and in papers for months.”
Partly trained in New Mexico (US).
Before the Olympics he was attacked and the gangsters took his car. Sitting inside they shot at Josia Thugwane. The bullet brushed his chin before he was able to jump out and escape. When blackmailing got worse he moved into a safe area in Johannesburg and partly trained in New Mexico (US).
It was in Nagano in 2002, when Josia Thugwane last time won a marathon with 2.13.23. “Until then me and my family were still threatened. But during the last two years that finally stopped because I had no success any more.” Josia Thugwane is well aware that it might start all again if he produces a good performance in one of his next marathons.
Although he says that his new home is not as safe as the one in Johannesburg the tiny figure of Josia Thugwane is not prepared to give in.