SA speedster wins Two Oceans against stiff Lesotho challenge

2011-04-25 00:00

GEORGE Ntshilizia powered through the final kilometres to wrest back the Old Mutual two oceans marathon crown from the recent foreign domination for South Africa on Saturday morning.

A trio of Johnstone Kemboi, Ludwick Mamabola and Shadrack Mudimbu led the 9 000 strong field through the half way in 1:33:47 with Ntshiliza way off the pace in 34th.

Kemboi was overhauled by Toyota’s Michael Mazibuko after cresting the long twisting Champman’s Peak climb and pulled away, but it was too much too soon and shortly after the marathon mark, which was passed in 2:19:42, Zimbabwean Mike Fokorini strode into the lead as Mazibuko stepped off the road.

Although Mazibuko returned to the fray, the Lesotho challenge started to impact, led by Motlhokoa Nkhabutlane, who used the Constantia Nek climb to close down his one-minute deficit at the marathon mark.

The 25-year-old Mr Price runner looked comfortable as he strode down RhodesDrive, but the steeper decent past Kirstenbosch took its toll.

“I was thinking that I was going to win the race when I was on the Constantia climb. I told myself the race was already finished, but at 52km I was so tired that I knew I had to just face the pain,” said Nkhabutlane who visibly slowed over the final three kilometres.

Cresting the final climb Ntshiliza pulled away to become the first South Africa winner since Bethuel Netshifhefhe in 2007, crossing the line in 3:8:31. With Nkhabutlane only 18 seconds adrift it was the closest finish since 2003 and the ninth fastest in the 42-year history of the race.

Ntshiliza went into the race as a half marathon specialist, having represented South Africa at the world championships. The speedster from Motherwell outside Port Elizabeth dispelled the myths that one has to train at altitude to win the ultras and proved again that success comes from pacing and having faster performances and greater capacity at short distance.

Lesotho’s Tsotang Maine completed the podium a further 30 seconds off the pace, with double Comrades champion Stephen Muzhingi filling fifth and achieving his goal of lowering his 2010 time by 50 seconds to 3:9:40. “It went exactly to plan. All I want to do is to improve with each race. If I am improving then I cannot complain no matter where I finish,” said the pragmatic Bluff Meats athlete who will be attempting to win his first Up Run on 29 May.

In unquestionably the strongest women’s field in the history of the race, the domination of the Nurgalieva twins was put under scrutiny on the climb up Chapman’s peak.

Oleysa was out front with Two Oceans debutant Nina Podnesbesnova as the approached the crest of Chapman’s. “I heard her breathing hard. I thought this is my chance and pushed over the top (of Chapman’s), trying to get away,” said Oleysa, who unusually was running without her twin, who was having a bad day.

The Nedbank novice closed and took the lead on the five kilometre descent into Hout Bay, but lost it again through the graveyard section heading towards the Constantia climb.

With her energy levels flagging Podnesbesnova was caught on Constantia Nek by Elena who had worked through her bad patch and was now securing her customary top two position. The mid-race challenge saw Oleysa go through the marathon mark in 2:37:38 for a 3:33:58 victory, the fastest ladies time in the history of the race. Bonita’s Farwa Mentoor was the first South African home in eighth place in 3:52:05, chased by Riana van Niekerk.

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