Legendary Elana Meyer runs a different race

2014-06-08 15:00

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Reflecting on the past 20 years, Elana Meyer says she is privileged to have been “there where the transition started”.

It is fitting that Meyer (47) still forms an integral part of the sport nine years after she retired from competitive running, and she has more than her two boys – Christopher (6) and Ené (4) – to look after.

“My two boys keep me busy these days, but I have now added the Cape Town Marathon as my newest baby,” said the legendary distance runner who earned her iconic status during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Meyer won a silver medal to become the first South African to win an individual medal in the country’s return to the Olympics stage.

“Barcelona was a massive and an emotional moment for me. I missed the 1984 and 1988 Olympics when I had actually qualified. But thanks to Nelson Mandela, we all had the opportunity to compete internationally.”

Meyer has teamed up with rugby legend Francois Pienaar to be a patron of the Cape Town Marathon. The 42km race will run in September.

“Since the Soweto Marathon tumbled last year, South Africa doesn’t have a city marathon, a race that will bring together people from all walks of life. The vision is to turn the Cape Town Marathon into a world major race event like the New York and London marathons.”

Meyer bemoaned the steady decline of interest in athletics in the country. She founded a distance running academy – Endurocad – last year as a way to do her bit to revive the sport.

“There are virtually no functional structures for athletics development in the country. We are trying to remedy that with Endurocad in inspiring South Africa to run.”

Meyer said the long-term goal of the academy – which lists Zola Budd Pieterse as one its ambassadors – is to become a leading running academy in Africa and to inspire a new generation of athletes to be international champions. Meyer and Budd enjoyed a fierce rivalry in competition during the 1980s.

Meyer said: “South Africa needs head-to-head competition where it is not easy to predict the race. Zola and I ­enjoyed a healthy rivalry. When I started, we were the same age and she was world class at the age of 14 or 15 and she won over me in the early years. But I closed the gap over the years and beat her. Our secret to success was founded through working as a group when we trained and then ran for the country. I have so much respect for her.”

Budd (48) finished seventh – the second South African woman home – in her second Comrades on Sunday.

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