South Africa’s first black Olympic medallist, Josia Thugwane, was honoured with one of the most prestigious gestures in the athletics world recently. His face has been engraved on Berlin Marathon 2017 medals.
Thugwane is known in the athletics world for clocking one of the best marathon races of all time to win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Speaking to 702 Talk Radio this morning, Thugwane was somehow subdued. He admitted his fame faded in the late 1990s when people mobbed him in the streets. He said it looked as if South Africans had since forgotten about him.
In 1997, he won the Fukuoka Marathon, claiming a personal best, national record and event record all at the same time with his 2:07:28 run. In the same year, he was crowned South Africa’s Sportsman of the Year.
When asked what he is doing now that he no longer races professionally, Thugwane said he had initially tried grooming future athletic gold medallists, but had stopped doing so, as financial support was hard to come by.
He said it was regrettable that mining companies had scaled down funding of athletic clubs, which is where most of the talent is unearthed.
— Cuan Walker (@runwithcuan) September 25, 2017
“The Berlin Marathon medal is traditionally showing the face of an Olympic marathon gold medal winner or a world champion in the marathon. This tradition is dating back to 1978.. No monetary benefits whatsoever are connected with this medal,” Berlin Marathon spokesperson Thomas Steffens told The Citizen.