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Cutting it close: the theme of the men's Olympic marathon

The men's marathon, a signature event of any Olympics, is traditionally held on the final day, and it will be again Sunday in Beijing. Since the revival of the Olympics in 1896, the marathon has always been on the program, with Greek water-carrier Louis Spiridon winning the inaugural race by roughly seven minutes. More often than not, however, the race is quite close, considering its length, with 14 Olympic marathons decided by less than a minute. The closest men's Olympic marathons, with year, the gold medalist, his country, and margin of victory in seconds:

• 1996: Josia Thugwane (S. Africa) 3

• 1920: Hannes Kolehmainen (Finland) 13

• 1988: Gelindo Bordin (Italy) 15

• 1948: Delfo Cabrera (Argentina) 16

• 1980: Waldemar Cierpinski (E. Germany) 17

• 1932: Juan Carlos Zabala (Argentina) 19

• 2000: Gezahgne Abera (Ethiopia) 20

• 1992: Hwang Young-cho (S. Korea) 22

• 1960: Abebe Bikila (Ethiopia) 26

• 1928: Boughera El Ouafi (France) 26

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