OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Hwang's heroics mirror history: Athletics

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HWANG Young-cho yesterday became the first South Korean to win the Olympic title since 1936 - and the man who won that gold medal in Berlin, Sohn Kee-chung, was there to watch him.

Sohn, who was forced to compete for the country occupying Korea at the time, Japan, said after his victory: 'The human body can only do so much. After that the heart and spirit must take over.' His successor proved the truth of that, breaking the resistance of his last, lingering challenger, Japan's Koichi Morishita, with a burst of acceleration on the steep, two-mile finish leading up to the Montjuic stadium.

Hwang, who was a university student when Korea staged the last Olympic marathon, only took up running the distance a year and a half ago. Last year he ran it in 2hr 08.47sec. Last night, in humidity of 72 per cent and a temperature of 25C, he finished in 2:13.23. Morishita was second in 2:13.45, and Stephan Freigang, of Germany, last year's World Student Games 10,000 metres champion, took the bronze.

Steve Brace was the leading Briton, in 2:17.49, on a day when fancied runners such as Steve Moneghetti, of Australia, and Gelindo Bordin, of Italy, came to grief. Dave Long was 39th, in 2:20.51, and Paul Davies-Hale two places behind him in 2:21.15.

Morocco's Salah Kokaich was the first African home in sixth; the first Kenyan was Boniface Merande in 14th. Every runner's nightmare came true for the world champion, Hiromi Taniguchi, just after the half-way mark when he became embroiled in the chaos of the roadside drinks' station and spun to the ground amid a mess of spilt water and scattered bottles, losing a shoe. He eventually finished a courageous eighth.

After 27 of the 42 kilometres the two Koreans and Morishita broke clear, and remained unchallenged until the 34km mark. The man moving fastest up the field at that stage was Freigang, who took up third place with seven kilometres to go, just 11 seconds behind the two leaders. Morishita and Hwang pushed on up towards the hill of Montjuic. Morishita was the man to break, as Hwang seized his moment on a downhill undulation and opened up a 30-metre gap.

By now he had the stadium in sight. By the time he came on to the track, he had enough in hand to wave all the way down the finishing straight before throwing himself down on to the ground after the line. Morishita's race seemed a far more painful business. After making sure of the silver, he fell to the ground writhing in pain.

Takeyuki Nakayama, Morishita's team-mate, entered the stadium with Freigang but the German employed his finishing speed to ensure a successful finale for his country, Dieter Baumann and Heike Henkel having taken gold in the 5,000m and high jump the day before.