GUTSY PERFORMANCE BY TEAM SA AT WORLD CHAMPS
by Michelle Carnegie
25 March 2018
Team South Africa gave it their all at the IAAF/Trinidad Alfonso World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia with Stephen Mokoka and Nolene Conrad finishing top South Africans.
Despite a harsh statement from Athletics South Africa (ASA) saying it “was not exactly a good day at the office” for Team South Africa, the athletes were praised by prominent figures within the running community saying the team can hold their heads high, especially seeing that they only arrived a day before the Champs, the only country whose athletes only had a day to recover from an intercontinental flight.
South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka delivered a gutsy performance, finishing 16th in a time of 1:01:26. Team mates Elroy Gelant finished 41st in 1:02:52, Precious Mashele 44th in 1:02:58, Melikhaya Frans 60th in 01:03:42 and Mbongeni Ngxazozo 144th in 01:07:16. The SA men's squad took sixth place in the team competition.
Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who clocked an impressive 13:01 split between the 15km and 20km marks, secured his third successive world title over the distance when he crossed the line in 1:00:02.
In the women’s race South African Conrad delivered a great performance, finishing in 25th position in a new PB of 01:11:44. Jenet Dlamini was 76th in 01:16:23, Cornelia Joubert 91st in 01:18:23, Mapaseka Makhanya 92nd in 01:18:23 and Lebogang Phalula 97th in 01:19:41. The SA women finished 15th in the team competition.
Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta Kebede took the win in 1:06:11, a world record for a women's only race.
Conrad had the following to say after the event: “I’ve achieved my goal. I am now an IAAF Gold Label Athlete, position 25 and PB by over a minute. All thanks to the special people in my life that believed and supported me through good and bad times. Was so special to have Elana Van Zyl-Meyer and Janet Welham (just missing Ruth Robertson here) cheering me on. My achievement today was because of their influence in my life. Big thanks to my coach Ernie Gruhn, Endurocad, my club KMPG, WPA, Sponsors (Adidas, Adidas eyewear, Peptopro, TomTom) Training partners, family, friends and all the fans who took the time to send me good luck messages. I really appreciate it.
ASA did not mince their words regarding their disappointment in the team’s performance, releasing a statement shortly after the event. “Not exactly a good day at the office for South Africa, following a similar performance at the CAA Senior Cross Country Championships held at Chlef, Algeria last week Saturday 17 March,” said Aleck Skhosana, the President of Athletics South Africa.
“Our athletes once again had a hard time against the other teams under the same conditions, which means that our athletes and coaches need to work extra hard in preparation for the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. We need to find a solution and close the gap in the performance delivery of runners at both road and cross-country. Their counterparts in Track and Field are far ahead.”
ASA came under some criticism on especially social media after the release of this statement, with many saying ASA could at least have congratulated Team SA on their gutsy performances before dishing out criticism. Many also mentioned it was a pity that ‘bad organization’ lead to Team SA’s arrival in Valencia only a day before the event. Team South Africa was the only country to arrive so late, making it hard for athletes to recover after an intercontinental flight and to adapt to the racing environment.
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