The very last event of the Olympic Games in Athens ended with a major surprise.
Italian Stefano Baldini won the marathon in a time of 2:10:55. But the event
had seen a major upset. At 36 k a spectator ran onto the road and stopped the
leading runner Vanderlei Lima. After a short break the Brazilian was able to
continue the race and won a bronze medal in 2:12:11. Another surprise was
US-runner Mebrahtom Keflezighi who finished second in 2:11:29. If Lima had not
been stopped he would most probably still not have won the gold medal. Because
in the last part of the race Baldini and Keflezighi ran much faster than the
"right" />The classic race was run on almost the same route as 108 years ago,
from Marathon to Athens’ Panathinaiko Stadium. Just before the half
marathon mark (67:22 minutes) Vanderlei Lima took over the lead. The winner of
this year’s Hamburg Marathon who had a personal best of 2:08:31 had not
been regarded as a candidate for the gold medal. So the favourites did not
bother much about his attack. But in temperatures of up to 30 ° Celsius in
the shade (still not as warm as in the women’s event) Lima really ran
away from the chasing group. At 30 k he had an advantage of 46 seconds.
But at this stage Baldini, Keflezighi, world record holder Paul Tergat
(Kenya), who later finished tenth, and world champion Jaouad Gharib (Morocco)
clearly increased their pace. They soon closed in on Lima. At 35 k the 35
year-old was leading by only 29 seconds. Soon after that mark a spectator
stormed onto the road. “Suddenly he appeared in front of me and pushed me
to the roadside where he held me”, Vanderlei Lima later reported.
Spectators were then helping the runner and he could continue his race without
“Who knows – perhaps I could have won if this would not have
happened. I was afraid when he stopped me because I did not know what he was
going to do. It was then difficult to get back into the rhythm”, Lima
said. He lost may be ten seconds. But in the end Lima finished 1:16 minutes
behind Baldini and 42 seconds behind Keflezighi. It would have been a tragedy
if he would have missed a medal by a couple of seconds. But in the end
Vanderlei Lima ran into Panathinaiko Stadium celebrating his bronze medal.
“I am really happy to have won this medal”, he said.
Later there was a meeting by the IAAF and finally the IOC announced that
Lima was going to be awarded with a special honorary medal in addition to the
From now on Lima will be a part of the Olympic marathon history – as
well as the Italian winner. “It is a fantastic story to win the marathon
here in Athens. Panathinaiko Stadium is the home of marathon running”,
Stefano Baldini explained. By winning he had denied second placed Mebrahtom
Keflezighi the highest bonus of his life. Marathon organisers of New York and
Chicago had promised a 500,000 $ bonus for a US marathon winner. Keflezighi
missed this money by 35 seconds.
English journalists later said they identified the man who stopped Lima. He
is said to be an Irish priest who has done similar things on at least two
occasions. He is said to have stopped the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at
Silverstone last year by running onto the course. Additionally he is said to
have done so at an Irish horse racing event.