SA’s ‘Speed Star’ an Olympic hopeful

2013-10-20 10:01

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Makhanya proves her long-distance mettle

While she was focusing on the 800m over the past few seasons, Mapaseka Makhanya was running in the shadow of Caster Semenya.

The 28-year-old runner came to prominence after she was crowned the SA 800m champion in 2010.

This was the period when Semenya was sidelined by the gender-verification row that followed her victory at the 2009 IAAF World Championships.

But Makhanya’s shift to the longer distances in the past year has unleashed her true potential and versatility.

“My achievements must be a source of hope for women, especially in athletics,” said Makhanya, who was nominated for the Sportswoman and the Sports Star of the Year at the SA Sports Awards last week.

The mother of one, who hails from Naledi in Soweto, had a splendid season on the track and on the road this year.

It was all the more remarkable considering that she was out for six months nursing an Achilles tendon sprain.

She started the year with a double victory at the SA Senior Championships in Stellenbosch in April with the 1 500m and the 5 000m national titles, and more was soon to follow for the runner known as Speed Star.

Makhanya said: “I regard the Spar race in Durban (in August) and the Gauteng Marathon as my standout events. I never thought I’d do 32 minutes so soon in the 10km. I had targeted a sub 2:40 in my maiden marathon but went on to win it.”

Makhanya capped her season as the Spar Grand Prix 10km champion after she conquered Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl. She received a brand-new car for winning the Grand Prix.

Lungile Bikwani, who has been her coach for four years, said they were now working on qualifying for the marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Mapaseka is our Olympic hopeful. We are working on improving her times,” he said.

“I’m proud to say that she is among a group of athletes with the potential to qualify for Rio.”

Makhanya, who wants to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Scotland next year, believes in hard work and is never afraid to make sacrifices.

She quit her day job as a technical worker for the Passenger Rail Agency of SA in May 2011 to pursue a career as a full-time athlete.

Her mother disagreed with the decision, even though Makhanya was chasing a qualifying standard for the London Olympic Games.

Makhanya said: “It was a tough decision considering that I have a kid to look after, but I don’t have regrets and have survived.”

But her pursuit of an Olympic dream ended in tears when she ruptured her Achilles tendon two months before the London Olympics.

This injury also forced her out of the African Championships in Benin.

Makhanya’s winning streak

SA Senior Championships

April 11:1 500m in 4:16.08

April 12:5 000m in 15:53.61 (personal best)

Mauritius International Meet

April 18: 800m in 2:03.93 (personal best)

Spar Women’s Challenge (10km)

June 23:Pretoria leg in 33:37 (course record)

August 31:Durban leg in 32:49

Gauteng Marathon

September 8:2:37.06

SA Sports Awards

» Nominated for the SA Sports Star of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year awards

» The public will vote for Sports Star of the Year. To vote, dial *120*8883# “Sports Star”. Choose option 3 if you would like to see Makhanya taking the honour

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