Twins likely to top women’s podium, again

2011-05-28 00:00

THE 86th Comrades marathon is stacking up as a red and white day on the ladies podium.

Although there has been an influx of international talent for the up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, it seems unlikely that anyone has the credentials to upset the seven-year domination of the Nurgalieva twins — Elena and Oleysa.

Since their debut in 2003 the twins have run in the red and white of the Mr Price club.

There is a school of thought that say this is the year that Oleysa and Elena could be challenged as they may have been pushed too hard in the Old Mutual Two Oceans.

However, the withdrawal of Marina Myshlyanova leaves Tatyana Zhirkova — who was third on the 2008 up-run — as the greatest threat of the experienced contenders.

Zhirkova exchanged the lead with the twins many times in the middle section of the 2008 race — but in the end the duo again proved to be stronger.

American Kami Semmick and Britain’s Lizzy Hawker, who debuted with fourth and fifth positions in last years down run, are adamant that they will do better on the up-run given their trail run experience.

Hawker has twice won the North Face Ultra trail tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps and has a useful 7:29:12 for 100km. “ I been staying in Pietermaritzburg with Kerry (Koen) and so I’ve learnt my way around the Comrades’ route,” said Hawker, who earned a Gold in this year’s Two Oceans.

This pairing is joined by, Ellie Greenwood, the current world 100km champion. “Although I’m Scottish I live in (Banff) Canada where it’s all hills. I have to use a treadmill if I want to run on the flat,” said the 32-year-old who has excelled at races from 10km to 125km.

Although a novice Susan Harrison joins her UK team mates and is one of the fastest in the ladies field. Coming from a middle distance background she boasts a 33 minute 10km right through to her win in last years world 50km cup.

Also returning for her second run is Russian, Irina Vishnevskaya, who debuted in sixth last year.

Riana van Niekerk has run the fastest marathon of the South African squad with a best of 2:43. In 2008 the Mr Price runner finished sixth to earn a rare victory over perennial first South African award winner Farwa Mentoor, but the tables could well be turned this time round.

“I’m really determined and focused on getting First South African,” said Mentoor who went through the marathon mark in two hours 45 minutes in the Old Mutual Two Oceans.

“It’s going to be really competitive this year, but I feel in better shape than before,” she said.

The Capetonian has always made Comrades her key focus and should lead the locals in the charge for gold.

There are more than a dozen ladies capable offilling the few remaining gold medal positions.

Lindsay van Aswegen, Devera Magson, the ever-smiling Lesley Train and Adinda Kruger are the experienced contenders with Pietermaritzburg’s Kerry Koen and Melanie van Rooyen, from Richards Bay — carrying the hopes of the province.

Van Rooyen has been the in-form runner early in the season, but battled a niggling hamstring injury until recently. Providing this remains under control she should get the first KZN award.

The unfortunate reality is that South African’s will do well to get more than three of the ten gold medals, and this is unlikely to change until the locals get faster over the shorter distances.

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