Challengers praise Ngomane

2005-06-16 21:54
Durban - The experienced athletes tried their best, but they just could not catch the young Sipho Ngomane in the 80th Comrades ultra marathon over 89km on Thursday.

South Africans showed the overseas athletes that they do not have a chance in the down race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban as seven of the first 10 athletes were born in South Africa and another, Lesotho.

The day belonged to Harmony's Ngomane who surprised friend and foe by winning convincingly in a time of five hours 27 minutes 10 seconds - the fifth fastest time in a down Comrades.

Russia's Oleg Kharitonov (Harmony) was second in 5:29:15, followed by the winner of the down marathon in 2001, Liberty Nike's Andrew Kelehe in a time of 5:31:44. It was Kelehe's ninth consecutive gold medal.

The defending champion, Vladimir Kotov (Mr Price) from Melkbosstrand was fourth with a time of 5:33:59, followed by Fusi Nhlapo (Mr Price, 5:39:01), Rasta Mohloli (Mr Price, 5:40:18), Johan Oosthuizen (Liberty Nike, 5:40:57), Claude Moshiywa (Liberty Nike, 5:42:22), Elias Mabane (Harmony, 5:46:20) and Albe Geldenhuys (Harmony, 5:46:37).

While the reserved Ngomane described his victory as "my day", the experienced Kelehe and Kotov gave reasons for their performances.

Kotov, a three times winner, said: "I predicted that a South African would win, because their muscles are different. That is why they do so much better in the down Comrades."

Kelehe said his race plan did not work out. The time of the large number of top athletes who ran together until after the halfway mark was too slow.

Kelehe said:"I lost the race at Drummond. My plan was to run the first half in a time of 2:46, but we passed in 2:49 and that was too slow.

"Sipho built up a big lead over us after the halfway mark and we could not catch him," Kelehe said.

Ngomane ran the last 30km in front.

Quite a number of athletes tried to catch him, but no one was successful.

Ngomane was more than four minutes ahead of Moshiywa, Kharitonov and Kelehe on top of Cowie's Hill, about 18 km from the finish line.

The gap narrowed, but no one managed to catch Ngomane.

Nhlapo, the winner in 2003, said he suffered from calf problems.

"This was my slowest down run, but I will be back," Nhlapo said.

It seems as if Willie Mtolo (Harmony) will have to throw in the towel without having won the Comrades.

The popular athlete withdrew after the halfway mark as a result of a knee injury.

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