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ATHENS, 29 August - Italy's Stefano BALDINI withstood the 30 degree Celsius heat and a very difficult course to win the Olympic gold medal in a time of 2:10:55.
The Italian covered the ten kilometres between 30km and 40km, which is predominantly downhill, in a staggering 28:59 to break the field and soldify his first major title.
A proven championship peformer he also has two World Championship bronze medals to his credit. As he entered ancient Panathinaiko Stadium he was greeted by a large Italian contingent.
The silver medal went to surprising Meb KEFLEZIGHI (USA) in a time of 2:11:29 while the Brazilian Vanderlei DE LIMA hung on for the bronze in 2:12:11.
The Brazilian had led for most of the second half of the race, his lead increasing to 42 seconds at one point. Then he fell victim to a bizarre incident at 32km. A bystander dressed in tights and a colourful tunic ran onto the road and grabbed DE LIMA, shoving him into the crowd. The startled runner was shaken but continued. A short time later BALDINI and KEFLEZIGHI passed him and there was fear that his front running would be for nought.
The rest of the pack could not catch him though as the conditions took their toll. Among the vanquished was world record holder Paul TERGAT of Kenya who slipped out of medal contention with around 6 kilometres remaining. He eventually finished tenth in 2:14:45.
Hendrick RAMAALA (RSA) broke from the pack at around 15km and opened up a twenty second lead. When the pack eventually swallowed him up all but DE LIMA relaxed. The Brazilian chose this moment to break.
Britain's Jon BROWN, who lives and trains in Victoria, Canada, duplicated his 4th place finish in Sydney running 2:12:26.
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