International women likely to top 2012 race

2012-05-31 00:00

THE last time the Comrades Bowl was held aloft by a South African woman was when Rae Boshoff charged over the Kingsmead stadium line in the 2003 down run.

The reality next week is that things are unlikely to prove any easier for the South Africans runners.

The class of 2012 contains a diversity of international women in contention for the ten golds with potentially only a couple being claimed by the local talent.

The six time winner Elena Nurgalieva will run only her second solo run since her sister Olesya withdrew after becoming a mother, but Elena remains the favourite for the 87th edition.

That said, the long, lone down run will make her more vulnerable to the fight that will unfold for the top positions, which can be expected to feature Russians Natalia Volgina, and Marina Zhalybina, American Debby Crosby-Helms and Britain’s Emma Gooderham.

Nurgalieva has the experience and the fastest marathon, but Crosby Helms final charge through the field to third in the Old Mutual Two Oceans in April and Volgin’s second place show could well be repeated and add to Nurgalieva’s pressure.

As the youngest the American may be the least experienced, but also has been seen to be on the rise improving her performance with each outing.

A best of 2:38 for the marathon and with a 100km under her belt, Crosby-Helm tends to save her best running for the final quarter, which is the exact recipe for success in the Comrades down.

Zhalybina, who is better know to Comrades enthusiasts under her maiden name of Bychova, returns to the race after a two year break.

The 35-year-old took the crown at the 2011 World 100 km Championships in Winschoten. This will give her a confidence boost in her attempt to improve on the two second places that she has amongst her ten previous Gold medals.

Irina Vishneyskaya may have had a relatively disappointing run in her debut, but is sure to have benefited from the experience. Together with fellow Russian Nina Podnebesnova she is sure to be ready and willing to capitalise on any errors of judgment up front.

Zimbabwean Samukeliso Moyo failed to finish in her debut last year and returns with a determination to tackle the unfinished business.

Although capable of a speedy marathon, her bout of racing that included Two Oceans, Loskop and the Phikwe Marathon over three consecutive weekends is likely to come home to roost over the longer distance.

Without question Farwa Mentoor once again enters the fray as the best of the South African hopes and whilst she will attempt to improve on her perennial fifth place finish, it seems unlikely given the wealth of international talent.

Lousie Leballo, who has represented the country at the half marathon distance, could cause an upset amongst the more traditional names where Adinda Kruger, Leslie Train and Kerry Koen will contend the lower half of the golden table.

A considerable reduction in racing could see Riana van Niekerk become a serious contender on the down run, where the running style has tended to hamper her ranking.

The inexperienced Zola Pieterse cannot be discounted, but the former track star may find the jump in distance a leap too far.

Although running for Unlimited, a KZN Club, the U.S.-based Pieterse does not qualify for the first KZN runner to cross the line.

That battle is likely to be determined between Koen and Canon Richards Bay athlete Melanie van Rooyen.

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