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Fearful Thugwane pulls out

The Olympic marathon champion, Josia Thugwane, who claims death threats have been made against him, has pulled out of the Bupa Great North Run on 15 September.

The 25-year-old security guard fears for his life after becoming South Africa's first black gold medallist. Sources say Thugwane, from a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, may have fallen foul of a local drugs baron, angry at his new-found fame. "Everyone is talking about the plan to kill me," the Johannesburg Star quoted him as saying. "I do not know who the crooks are, but if they say they will kill someone, they will do it."

Thugwane, who was wounded in a hijacking three months before the Olympics, added: "They think I am rich. I fear more for my wife and family than myself."

South African athletics officials have announced that instead of competing on Tyneside, Thugwane will attend a reception being hosted by Nelson Mandela on the same day.