Jan Mashiani

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJan•Mashiani
Used nameJan•Mashiani
AffiliationsTswana Tribe
NOC South Africa


Amongst the field of 32 athletes to take to the start line of the marathon at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics were Jan Mashiani and Len Taunyane. The pair were both Tswana Tribesmen and were the first black South African Olympians. They were present at the South African exhibit of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and had been dispatch runners during the Boer War where they were noted to be “the fleetest in the service.” At the exposition Mashiani and Taunyane had the indignity of being exhibited in a two-day event billed as “Anthropology Days.” Here they were dressed in native costumes and threw spears for the amusement of the onlooking white men.

Mashiani and Taunyane had originally travelled to the United States to be part of an exhibition about the Boer War. However the event was later cancelled following a dispute between the organisers and the Transvaal Farmer’s Association. Both men were then invited to run in the marathon at the St. Louis Games. The race was infamous for taking place on dusty roads in extreme heat and because the initial winner Fred Lorz was disqualified after taking a ride in an automobile.

Mashiani had originally finished in 13th place, which was then upgraded to 12th following Lorz’s disqualification. Mashiani’s performance was hindered further when he was chased for about one mile off the course by a pack of wild dogs.

Personal Best: Mar – unknown.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1904 Summer Olympics Athletics RSA Jan Mashiani
Marathon, Men (Olympic) 12