Josia Thugwane

Josia Thugwane
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing  South Africa
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1996 Atlanta Marathon

Josia Thugwane (born 15 April 1971) is a South African athlete, best known for winning the gold medal in the marathon race at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Thugwane, who is of Ndebele heritage, is the first black athlete to earn an Olympic gold for South Africa.

Born in Bethal, Thugwane ran his first marathon in 1991, but his breakthrough to the international athletics scene came in 1995, when he won the Honolulu Marathon.

Just five months before the Games commenced, Thugwane was carjacked and shot; the bullet grazed his chin, leaving an inch-long scar, and he injured his back as a result of jumping from his moving car. The coalmine that employed him paid for his medical care and rehabilitation.[1]

At Atlanta, in the 1996 Olympic marathon, a large leading pack stayed in contact with each other for most of the race, until at the 35 km mark when Thugwane initiated a break away and he along with Lee Bong-Ju from South Korea and Erick Wainaina from Kenya. They stayed together until entering the stadium, when Thugwane got a slight lead. Thugwane finished 3 seconds ahead of Lee for the closest Olympic marathon finish ever.

Thugwane had a very successful year in 1997 by winning the Fukuoka Marathon, but then his career went down. He failed to finish in three successive marathons, and finished only twentieth in the 2000 Sydney Olympic marathon despite top ten finishes in the New York Marathon and London Marathon that year. In 2002 he won the Nagano Olympic Memorial Marathon in Japan.


Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  South Africa
1995 Honolulu Marathon Honolulu, Hawaii 1st Marathon 2:16:08
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States 1st Marathon 2:12:36
1997 Fukuoka Marathon Fukuoka, Japan 1st Marathon 2:07:28
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 20th Marathon 2:16:59
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada Marathon DNF
2002 Nagano Marathon Nagano, Japan 1st Marathon 2:13:23
2003 World Championships Paris, France Marathon DNF


  1. ^ "In Marathon, First Gold Medal Won by Black South African". The New York Times. 1996-08-05. Archived from the original on 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2008-08-24.

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