In 1986 Barcelona finally won the bid for the Summer Olympics of 1992, after having tried unsuccessfully to host them in 1924, 1936 and 1972. Luckily these were the first Games unaffected by boycotts since 1972. They were also the first after the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, whose states participated under the Unified Team flag, topping the medal rankings.
Meanwhile Germany was participating again as a unified country and South Africa was back after a long hiatus because of the apartheid regime. The old Yugoslavia didn´t participate in team sports because of the Balkans ongoing conflict, although its individual athletes could compete.
In women athletics Algerian athlete Hassiba Boulmerka, frequently criticized by Muslim groups in her country, won the 1500 metres after being forced to move to Europe to train. Also, worth to mention the 10000 metres final with the duel between Elana Meyer (South Africa) and Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia).
Valentina Mikhailovna Yegorova was born in Cheboksary, Russia, although he competed in Barcelona under the Unified Team flag. From a young age she run, focusing soon in the marathon distance. Her first medal in an international event was at the 1990 European Athletics Championships, where she won the silver, only beaten by Rosa Mota.
The marathon of Barcelona 1992 used a point-to-point course, starting in the coastal city of Mataró and following a flat road through the coastline until kilometre 25. Afterwards it entered Barcelona, where course still had to get to Montjuic and the Olympic Stadium, located at 147 metres above sea level. This altitude difference was saved in the last 7 kilometres, making it one of the toughest Olympic marathon courses in record.
As for the women marathon it was scheduled for August 1st at 18.30. Temperature was 27°C with a light sea breeze. 47 runners were present, with Lisa Ondieki (previously Martin) from Australia and Lorraine Moller from New Zealand participating in the Olympic marathon for the third time, after being only celebrated in Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988.
Because of the steep ascent of the final section runners didn´t start very fast. The 10k was crossed in 36.27, with Ondieki, Katrin Dörre-Heinig (Germany) and Manuela Machado (Portugal) at the front line. By the 20k (1.14.09) Ondieki was still leading ahead of a big group of runners. Abruptly she decreased her pace, followed by a series of leadership changes while runners abandoned the coastline.
The 30k was crossed by Yegorova first in 1.48.49, almost one minute ahead of teammate Madina Biktagirova and Japanese Yuko Arimori. The next section from 30 to 35k was downhill, with Arimori taking advantage to move into second place and close the distance with Yegorova (2.06.36) to 12s. Moller had moved into third, a further 18s behind. It was time for the last, but hardest effort: the ascension to Montjuic and the finish line.
But it was clear that nothing has been decide yet. In the ramps Arimori caught Yegorova and they continued running side by side. By the 40k (2.24.54) they were only 1s apart. Moller, far behind, was out of the fight for victory.
Just entering the stadium Yegorova attacked for a last time, with Arimori unable to figth back. And so, it was the victory for Yegorova in 2.32.41, only 8s of Arimori. It was the closest victory in the short history of women Olympic marathon. Moller closed the medal positions in 2.33.59.
And the Olympic marathon wasn´t over for Russian Yegorova and Japanese Arimori. They came head to head once again four years later, in Atlanta 1996. And we will tell you everything here.
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“The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.