Phalula twins: double trouble

2015-04-12 15:00

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The Phalula twins – Lebo and Lebogang – regard themselves as great team-mates as opposed to fierce competitors on the athletics track.

The pair boast that they have been in sync since they were born on December 9 1983. The identical twins attribute their success to a combination of mutual respect, hard work and a passion for running.

“We do everything together and we don’t see ourselves as rivals when competing because we work together against other competitors,” said Lebo, South Africa’s reigning 5?000m champion, who runs under Boxer Superstores Running Club.

“During races, we alert each other about the positioning of the field. When Lebogang wins, it feels like I am the one who won the race and the other way round,” she explained.

Lebogang added that “we even share the prize money, if one of us wins a big race”.

The Diepkloof-born pair finished on the podium at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon’s 21km race last weekend. Maxed Elite Athletics Club runner Lebogang won the half-marathon event while her sister – the 2014 champion – came in third, behind runner-up Mapaseka Makhanya.

The Phalulas have a fierce rivalry with Makhanya, Caster Semenya and René Kalmer over mid- and long-distance events.

The twins’ latest achievement follows a fruitful 2014 for Lebo, who was crowned the Spar Women’s Challenge Grand Prix champion and drove away in a brand-new car.

Two weeks ago, she represented the country at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross-Country Championships in China, where she finished 46th out of the field of 80 who completed the race.

Lebogang this week departed for Mauritius to race in the 1?500m track meet there.

When they broke into the senior athletics scene in 2003, the pair ran barefoot, had the same hairstyles and consistently finished in the top five.

The duo is so well coordinated during races that their opponents often suspected that they had twin telepathy – and they are often accused of cutting corners during races.

“Even when we changed hairstyles or run in different colours, we still confuse many people,” said Lebo.

“We started out as sprinters during our primary school days but our coach at the time felt that we were too skinny and we could make better middle- and long-distance runners,” she explained.

Lebo admitted that Lebogang has always been well ahead because “she is mentally stronger and she does not give up easily”.

This is reflected in the many IAAF international events that Lebogang has entered since the sisters started running in 1996. But she suffered a setback in 2011 when the SA cross-country champion tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. She was barred for six months.

Following success at the Two Oceans last weekend, the pair is now bidding for their first qualification to the IAAF World Championships, which runs in Beijing, China, from August 22 to 30.

The devoted Christians are both hoping to qualify at the SA Senior Athletics Track and Field Championships in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, next weekend.

“God always answers our prayers and it is through Him that we prosper,” they said in conclusion.

Amen to that.

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