Muzhingi wins back to back and SA stays in top half

2012-04-07 18:37

Comrades Marathon three-time champion Stephen Muzhingi yesterday became the first man in recent memory to win two back-to-back ultra races with his victory in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon.

Muzhingi emulated the feat of Derek Preiss who clinched the Two Oceans in 1975 on the back of a Comrades triumph.

Despite the men’s top 10 being dominated by a foreign contingent, South Africa still took its place in the top half, with national marathon record-holder Gert Thys the first local home in fourth place in 3:09.42 and Bongumusa Mthembu fifth in 3:10.16.

The Rainbow Nation had earlier made a clean sweep in the men’s and women’s half marathon with victories from Xolisa Tyali (1:04.54) and Rene Kalmer (1:15.02).

The Zimbabwean-born Muzhingi, running in the colours of F1 Bluff Meats, not only beat a strong field of over 9 000 runners, but also overcame the strong headwinds and downpours of yesterday’s event.

Despite the wet and chilly conditions, the 36-year-old came home in 3:08.08, which he said was well within his pre-race target.

So bad were the conditions that a strong wind blew apart the structure at the finish line in which the digital clocks were kept.

Fortunately no athlete was harmed as the structure collapsed before Muzhingi even came close. He could have been even faster had he not slipped just a few metres before the finish line.

“I really didn’t come to win but to train for the Comrades,” said Muzhingi.

He revealed that, apart from the R250 000 first prize he pocketed, his club sponsors Barons will reward him with a car as an incentive for winning yet another major race.

He received a VW Polo Vivo for winning the Comrades last year.

“I am not really after the money, it’s race first and reward later. So I’m expecting another car,” said Muzhingi whose triumph handed Zimbabwe its sixth title in the men’s 56km since Honest Mutsakari (2001), Moses Njodzi (2006) and Marco Mambo (2004, 2005, 2008).

Muzhingi dethroned George Ntshiliza, who had landed South Africa its first ultra title in a long time, since Bethuel Netshifhefhe’s feat in 2007.

Meanwhile Thys said he had hoped to beat the standing course record, Thompson Mogawana’s 3:03.44 mark he set in 1988, but the challenging weather conditions made his health condition a problem.

“I was on 2:10 at the marathon mark (42km) but due to the bad weather I slowed down in the second half. I have low blood sugar levels and pushing hard was going to be a health risk for me,” said Thys, who is the SA marathon record-holder courtesy of the sub 2:06 that won him the 1999 Tokyo Marathon.

The 40-year-old Mr Price Athletics runner said he would nonetheless pursue his mission of setting new barriers in the marathon in his next road race early next month.

“I am going to Prague (Czech Republic) to attempt to break the world marathon record (2:03),” said Thys after his debut yesterday.

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