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Italy's Baldini wins marathon gold


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Baldini is the last competitor to take gold in an athletics event at the Athens Games.
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• Olympics 2004: Special report 

(CNN) -- Stefano Baldini took the gold in the men's marathon, the final athletics event of the Athens 2004 Games.

The Italian clinched victory in style coming in ahead of U.S. athlete Mebrahtom Keflezighi and Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima.

Baldini's victory was overshadowed by a dramatic incident as de Lima was pushed off the road by a spectator while leading the event with only about 15 minutes left.

After being pushed into the crowd, De Lima got away from the protester and rejoined the race, holding his leg.

The spectator, dressed in a kilt and green beret was arrested and taken away by police.

A government spokesman said he was a former Irish priest, Cornelius Horan, who interrupted the British Formula One Grand Prix last year by running on to the Silverstone track.

"The man says he is Irish, he is also drunk. He had been to a taverna earlier," a police source told Reuters.

Brazil's Olympic Committee said it would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the assault.

"I lost the gold medal at that moment," said De Lima, who was presented with a special sportsmanship medal by the IOC at the closing ceremony.

"I was afraid, I didn't know if the man who attacked was armed. I lost my rhythm and it was very difficult."

The race began in 30 degrees, cooler than the temperatures for last Sunday's women's race but still hot enough for the toughest race on the Olympic athletics program.

The field remained bunched until 16kms, when South African Hendrik Ramaala surged into the lead.

Ramaala was overtaken in turn by de Lima who led as the field passed halfway in 67 minutes 33 seconds.

At the 30kms mark, Lima had extended his lead to 46 seconds, completing the previous 5kms in 15:30, the fastest split of the race.

But his margin steadily dwindled as the chasing group, headed by Baldini, drew closer and the clash with the interloper at 37kms threw him off his stride.

"Today I was sure because I am in top condition," Baldini said. "I was only afraid in the first part because we were too slow.

"The way I ran today made it impossible for anybody to beat me."


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