For the third time, an American won the Marathon and, for the third time, someone got into the stadium ahead of the winner.
Back in 1904, Thomas Hicks had been leading the race, only for an imposter to jump on to the track just before the athletes reached the stadium. As he ran in, the fans assumed him to be the leading athlete and cheered his performance, before he was spotted for a joker. But that was 68 years ear;oer, and few imagined that history was about to repeat itself. But it did.
This time around, the man leading the race was Frank Shorter. He was the pre-eminent distance runner in the United States, having qualified for the 1968 Olympic Games at 5000m and competing in Munich at 10,000m. But it was in the Marathon that he was to achieve his greatest success. Shorter had broken away from the pack nine miles from the end, and was leading the race as it reached it closing minutes. But, just as in 1904, a spectator managed to get on to the course a little way in front of him and run into the stadium.
At first, the man was applauded, but then it became clear that he was a cheat and that he was being apprehended by staff Offended and upset, the crowd inside the Olympic Stadium began to boo – and that was the moment when Shorter entered the arena.
After running for 26 miles, he was bemused – nobody had told him about the imposter and he had been expecting to hear applause, rather than the catcalls that rained down. An American TV commentator famously boomed “He's a fraud, Frank,” a statement that Shorter didn't hear but which has entertained sports fans for years since.
Moments later, though, as the imposter was taken away the applause began, and Shorter was cheered to the end of the race. Behind him, Mamo Wolde took bronze with the fastest marathon time of his glittering career, achieved at the age of 40.
Shorter won silver in Montreal years later, and his running exploits are credited as one of the reasons behind the boom in running in America during the 1970s. He later became the Chairman of the US Anti-Doping Agency.
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