Alain Mimoun, 92, an Algerian-born French distance runner who won the 1956 Olympic marathon after losing three Olympic races to Czech great Emil Zatopek, died Thursday. France's athletics federation announced his death but did not provide other details.
Mimoun won silver in the 10,000-meter race at the 1948 London Olympics and in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 1952 Helsinki Games — narrowly missing the Olympic gold medal each time to Zatopek. Reporters called Mimoun "the little shadow."
For the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, Mimoun switched to the marathon from shorter-distance races. In his first try at the 26-mile, 385-yard event, he ran with the lead pack until pulling ahead about halfway through the race.
After crossing the finish line, he waited for Zatopek, who came in sixth. The men embraced and Mimoun later said, "That was better than the medal."
He was born in 1921 in French Algeria and served in the French Army with the Allied forces during World War II. He was wounded during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944 but recovered to resume his promising running career.
He became a 32-time national champion in France and ran regularly into his late 70s.
-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports