Local ladies looking lekker for Comrades

2010-05-22 00:00

ALTHOUGH there seems little doubt that Elena and Olyesa Nurgalieva will once again hog the top two podium places at the finish of the 2010 Comrades in Kingsmead next Sunday, there has been a determined increased intensity by South African women to become gold medallists in the country’s richest race.

The 2009 down Comrades saw the final gold medal go to the little known Kashmira Parbhoo from the Lenasia club in seven hours 16 minutes and 13 seconds, with Pietermaritzburg’s Kerry Koen taking the first silver. These are times that are unlikely to be repeated in 2010 as the local lasses have upped the ante by a significant margin, and combined with the influx of a quartet of Russian and American novices, the 10th gold medal looks set to be awarded before the seven-hour barrier has come down.

In marathon terms, Riana van Niekerk has the fastest marathon and on paper would be favoured, but her gangly, open-armed and rotational style is far from ideal for a down run. That said, she has been conspicuous by her absence from the racing scene, which, if she does line up, would mean she is fresh-legged and ready to go.

By far the most competitive and experienced local woman is Farwa Mentoor. The Cape-based athlete never fails to give her all, and a more realistic pacing plan coupled with her terrier-like-determination saw her charge into fifth position once again securing the first South African award.

With the clock now expected to read around six hours 40 minutes, the floodgates of opportunity open for many ladies.

Lesley Train has improved her marathon time this year, although her high-level racing schedule seems to have taken the edge off the face-wide smile that typified her finishes last year and had so many supporters cheering as she charged around the cricket stadium.

Lindsay van Aswegen has also been doing the circuit with wins in the Loskop followed by a record-breaking run in the Cape 50 km ultra on consecutive weeks. Having taken some time off in mid-March, she may be fresh enough to throw in a top performance, but equally both Train and Van Aswegen may have done just a couple of races too many.

Adinda Kruger embarked on a more sedate build-up to the race, and could well be at her peak next week. The Nedbank athlete, who was injured for last year’s race, ran six hours 38 minutes in 2007 for ninth place, which is an indication not only of her strength, but also of the standard of performance required to earn gold.

Another who has kept her head just below the radar is West Rand-based Belinda Waghorn, who won the Township marathon and placed second in the Loskop 50 km in April, but took a relatively easy 14th place in the Two Oceans two weeks before. Tomorrow, the previous gold medallist, who will turn out in Bonitas colours, has openly stated her intention of cracking the seven-hour barrier.

Nedbank’s Xoliswa Bici has yet to deliver on her potential in Comrades. The 30-year-old has covered 10 km in 36 minutes, but ran her best Comrades of seven hours 40 minutes in 2007. This year she has lowered her marathon to three hours one minute, which should put her well inside the silver medal cutoff and close to the gold medals if others get too involved in racing too early in the day.

Melanie van Rooyen from the Canon Richards Bay Club has been dominating the KZN marathon and ultra scene, scaling the ladder to a new level. Similarly Kerry Koen, who has moved from the local Collegians Harriers club to the Nedbank professional team, is looking stronger and more determined than ever. On a good day both these ladies can be expected to find themselves in battle for the last of the gold positions.

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