This year’s up run is anyone’s race

2013-06-01 00:00

THERE’S a firm belief among the challengers for this year’s Comrades title that a South African can claim the honours on the up run. After many a year there is no strong Russian threat in the men’s race and, looking at the formbook, the up run duck, which goes back to Jetman Msutu’s 1992 win, can finally be broken with a home country win.

There’s also no clear favourite for the race. In past years, there have been a handful of names to feature in many a pundit’s trifecta, but this time around, the race is there for the taking.

Many of the top contenders, while not denying they have put in the training, are not giving too much away, keen to let matters take their course on the day. Generally, it’s a case of who makes the decisive moves at the right time and who has the legs, speed and strength to claim the crown.

Nedbank Running Club manager Nick Bester is confident of a South African win. He has current champion Ludwick Mamabola in his camp, who is keen to prove he is a worthy winner after the doping charge against him last year. Pietermaritzburg favourite Bongumusa Mthembu, second last year, is keen to improve on his up run best of 12th in 2011 and wants a top five finish at least.

One of the most consistent performers in recent years, Claude Moshiywa, who has a top 10 finish in the last three events is trying to break his “bridesmaid” status and win at last. Said Moshiywa: “I have a proven record and can run with the best. I will try to win this time.” Swiss runner Jonas Buud, fourth in his debut run in 2011, has learnt from his mistakes and could be a surprise winner.

Charles Tjiane, running for the Bonitas team, is another not to be discarded. He was third in 2007, is in good shape and has revised his tactics. The Toyota club has three-time winner Stephen Muzinghi leading the charge, but an injury from Two Oceans could hamper his challenge. He is quite strong though, knows the course and knows the feeling of winning.

The Maxed Elite Team (Mr Price) oozes with talent, having Gert Thys, Prodigal Khumalo and Mncedisi Mkhize in its colours. Thys led up to the 60 km mark last year, Khumalo was 12th and Mkhize has been in the golds the past three years. Said Thys: “I learnt the hard way last year and am the more experienced for it. I have grown this year, trained on the route and will run my own race and splits.”

Moses Njodzi, winner of the 2006 Two Oceans and Point Chaza, in the Formula One colours, are seen as the pacemakers and, if they have the legs, can tussle for the gold positions. Serious contenders Gift Kelehe and Fanie Matshipa, running for Samancor Chrome, are confident of success, Matshipa having come second in 2011 after a great tussle with Muzinghi. Said Matshipa: “I have worked harder than 2011 and am here to win.”

On the women’s front, the Nurgalieva twins could be threatened by hometown heroine Kerry Koen, the first SA woman home last year in sixth. Charne Bosman could push hard for gold, as could Two Oceans champion Thabita Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) and Russian Marina Zhalybina, who has been out the top five only twice in 12 attempts.

MEN

Fanie Matshipa, Bongamusa Mthembu, Claude Moshiywa

WOMEN

Marina Zhalybina, Kerry Koen, Elena

Nurgalieva

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