Noel Thatcher, Britain's double gold medal winner at the Paralympics in Atlanta, yesterday had to call off his bid to emulate the feats of Emil Zatopek.
The partially sighted athlete, who had defied a stress fracture in his left fibia to win the 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles, decided to pull out of the marathon after doctors had warned him that his bones could shatter on the hills.
Zatopek completed the triple of 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and Thatcher, 30, a physiotherapist from Harlow, had hoped he could match the remarkable feat.
He said: "I listened to the doctor and he told me about the risks, and I had a lot of thinking to do before deciding."
Thatcher had been in severe pain after winning the 5,000m and wanted to delay his decision about the marathon as late as possible. But a further visit from the doctor yesterday made him realise he had little choice but to withdraw to avoid the kind of injury which might have ended his athletics career.
"He said this morning there was a possibility it could snap totally and I was forced not to go though with the race," Thatcher explained. But his only concern, he said, was to cheer on the other British runners in his event.
"Now I want to support my friend Mark Furnell in the marathon for visually impaired runners and cheer him to a medal."