French-Algerian Legend Alain Mimoun dies

Alain MimounThe 1956 Olympic marathon champion Alain Mimoun passed away last night at the age of 92.

Born in Algeria (1 January 1921), which was then a part of France, Mimoun was the eldest of seven children in a family of farmers.

He served in the French army during the Second World War, and it was during his military service that he discovered his passion for running.

At the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, Mimoun’s foot was severely wounded by shrapnel and it was feared that his leg would need to be amputated. Fortunately he avoided those drastic measures and after the war he joined an athletics club.

It wasn’t until age 27 that he made his first Olympic appearance, and despite being relatively unknown, he finished second in the 10,000m to Emil Zatopek.

The Czech athletics legend would also finish ahead of Mimoun in both the 5000m and the 10,000m at the 1950 European Championships and again over both distances at the 1952 Olympic Games.

But Mimoun finally achieved his moment of glory at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, where he made his debut in the Marathon and dominated the race from start to finish, winning by more than a minute-and-a-half in sweltering heat.

Legendary athletes of the 50s Emil Zatopek (left) and Alain Mimoun
Legendary athletes of the 50s Emil Zatopek (left) and Alain Mimoun

Zatopek, who by this time was a close friend of Mimoun’s, finished sixth. The day before the race, Mimoun had discovered by telegram that his wife had given birth to their daughter, fittingly named Olympus.

Mimoun made his final Olympic appearance at the Rome Games in 1960, where he finished 34th in the Marathon at age 39.

At the International Cross Country Championships, the precursor to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Mimoun won four gold medals and two silver medals. He also won a record six national Marathon titles, the last of which came in 1966.

“I compare my career to a castle,” said Mimoun after his 1956 Olympic triumph. “My silver medal in London is the foundation, my two medals in Helsinki are the walls, my gold medal Melbourne is the roof.”

Mimoun was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration, for his war service, while in 1999 readers of French magazine Athlétisme voted him “French Athlete of the 20th Century”.

Right up until age 92, Mimoun still ran 10-15 miles a day.



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