Peu was the alternate. Only three runners could compete. After two months everyone else seemed to be running well, so Peu decided to run a half marathon in Paris. A day before he was supposed to fly from New York, he changed his mind. He would stay in Albuquerque longer and prepare for another half marathon back in South Africa. He was sitting with Malan in the living room the next day, watching television, when the news came across the screen that TWA Flight 800 had exploded over the waters off Long Island. That was Peu's flight.
"My body just went cold," Malan says.
"I was not so bothered," Peu says. "I think that your destiny is your destiny. The spirits decide."
Seven days before the Olympic marathon, the spirits decided that Peu should run. Yawa suffered a stress fracture in his left leg. Peu was the replacement. He had trained the previous three weeks for the half marathon, skipping the long runs, but that was all right. The goal was not necessarily a medal for him but a medal for someone. By now the goal looked close.
"Everyone in Albuquerque was saying that we would win a medal," Malan says. "We had been training very well. Sometimes we would run with other runners during our workouts. The Germans. The Russians. The British. Our guys always would move to the front. Our guys always ran farther. Josia was very big on this. He didn't want anyone in front of us. He is an aggressive, competitive runner."
Malan thought Thys had the best chance. He had the most experience. He was running well at camp. The runners participated in the opening ceremonies, then flew back to Albuquerque and did not return to Atlanta until three days before the marathon, which took place on the final day of the Games. Malan was worried that the excitement of the Olympic Village would distract the runners. He was right. On the morning of the race he no longer thought Thys was the choice.
"I saw him at the track, watching events, at 11 o'clock the night before," the coach says. "I said, 'What are you doing?' He said there was no problem. At 1:30 in the morning there was a disturbance in the hall in the dormitory at the Village. I got up and was going to tell the people to keep it down, that there were guys here who were going to run a marathon in the morning. There was Thys. He was still up. At four o'clock, when we woke him—the race was to start at seven—he wanted to sleep. It was too late."
The plan was to run a hard but not killing pace. This was based on the women's marathon, run a week earlier and won by Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia. The South Africans wanted to do exactly what she had done, run fast enough to burn away the fast closers in the field but not so fast as to fall apart. Peu was supposed to control the early work, because he had trained for the half marathon and probably would fade at twice that distance. Thugwane was the major hope.
"Lawrence was supposed to run in the middle of the lead group, because that is where the most body heat is," Malan says. "Josia and Gert were supposed to be on different sides, where it is easier to run. We wanted all three runners in front as long as possible, able to communicate, able to help each other."