SA athletics team on their way to World Championships in Moscow

2013-08-07 00:00

THE athletics team for the World Championships in Moscow left last night and contains 27 members.

They are one of the biggest teams that South Africa has sent to the World Championships, but have had to weather the side swell and waves around boardroom disruptions.

The lack of sponsorship resulted in a minimal local season, limited qualification opportunity for those who could not find places on the European circuit, plus an on-off approach to their participation.

On the positive side, both A and B qualifiers are included and this means that a number of new and up-and-coming athletes are being given the chance to experience the top competition in the sport. The athletics World Championships is in fact the leading global sports event of the year and experiencing this is an important step in the development of any future top-class athlete.

One such athlete is Justine Palframan who, although brought up in KZN, has now made her base in Stellenbosch. Over the years the 200 m and 400 m runner has made it her business to go after top notch performances and has benefited from the opportunity of coaching and training in Jamaica.

The general lack of interest and support for track and field in KZN resulted in her move to Stellenbosch, where she was snapped up by the university and now runs for and is supported by Boland. Her coach, Mohammed Ally, another ex-KZN athletics enthusiast, will also be in Russia as part of what can be described as one of the most athletics-centric team managements of the past decade. This is good news for the team who may not be medal winners, but certainly will gain significantly from the next two weeks competing with the best in the world.

Fifty-kilometre walker Marc Mundell was another local athlete who left the province for greener pastures, in his case Tuks in Pretoria, and now holds the Africa record. He was the first 50 km walker to represent SA in the Olympics. Although quite a bit away from the medals, Mundell will probably slice some more from his personal best and no one can ask more from any athlete.

Although nearing the end of her career in marathons, KZN’s Tanith Maxwell will also be in Russia and for once faces relatively cool conditions and a reasonably fast course.

The championships commence on Saturday and run through to the men’s marathon on August 18.

• Elsewhere, Formula One athletes made their mark at the annual Merewent Engen 10 km challenge, where Joseph Kipyego was the only runner to dip under the 30-minute barrier on the fast flat out-and-back course. Kipyego pulled almost 500 m clear of clubmate Samuel Katuu, who recorded 31:18 for second spot, with Chatsworth’s Thabo Ngalonkulu the first South African across the line.

Janene Carey dominated the women’s race, taking the honours in a speedy 37:01, which also secured her victory in the 40-49 age group. Carey improved her 2012 win by more than a minute. Nedbank’s Fikile Mbathuma split the Boxer girls, with Debbie Perry the first 35-39 and third overall in 38:42.

• The KZN Cross Country Championships are held at Gelofte in Pinetown on Saturday. With competition in the championships a requirement for selection to the SA championships in September, a large turn-out is expected and runners are reminded that the championships follow a totally different programme to the normal league events. The first event commences at 9 am on Saturday and goes through to the final age-group race at 4.20 pm. The senior events are all in the middle of the programme around midday. More information can be had from the KZN office at 031 312 9374.

• Women’s Day on Friday sees the Chatsworth Women in Action 10 km. It starts at Chatsworth Stadium at 8 am and covers a hilly course around the suburb. There is also a five-kilometre distance and both distances are open to walkers. More information at 083 785 4333.

• On Sunday there is a choice of runs with Nongoma club hosting a 21 km and five kilometre distance from the Kwagqikazi main gate at 7 am. Manqele Mphathiseni has more details at 083 432 9566.

• Up the coast in Mtunzini there is the annual 16 km Bush Run that is as much a trail event as it is a road race. This extremely scenic and interesting route is hosted by the local athletics club and covers a 16 km route up and over the sand dunes from the Town Hall. It is a pre-entry race. Paul Mannix has details at 082 571 6559.

THE ENGEN–MEREWENT 10 km

Men: 1. Joseph Kipyego, Form One A C29:58

2. Samuel Katuu, Form One A C31:18

3. Thabo Ngalonkulu, Chatsworth A C31:56

Women: 1. Janene Carey, Boxer A C37:23

2. Fikile Mbathuma, Nedbank A C38:30

3. Debbie Perry, Boxer A C38:42

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