Running champ eyes hat-trick

2011-05-21 18:10

“If other running clubs don’t know who we are yet, they ­better wake up and smell the coffee”.

This was the daring message from the camp of the defending champion Stephen Muzhingi ahead of the Comrades ­Marathon next Sunday.

Formula 1 Bluff Meats ­International Club is a relatively unknown name when compared to big guns such as Nedbank, Mr Price, Toyota and Bonitas.

But under coach Cliff ­Chinasamy the club is gradually establishing itself as the one to beat in the ultra-marathon competition, and the Comrades in particular.

Having won in 2009 and ­defended their title last year, ­Muzhingi’s camp believes a ­hat-trick is attainable despite this year’s edition being an “up-run”, meaning the 86.96km race will start in Durban and finish in Pietermaritzburg.

“Our training was all about climbing,” said his mentor ­Chinasamy on their strategy ahead of the “ultimate human race” in seven days’ time.

“We have a mixed team?– South Africans, Zimbabweans and ­Russians – to take on the ­expected strong field on the day.

But Stephen is our trump card.”

Muzhingi said: “We are ­focused and I mean we are away from our wives and we are not even thinking about the ­bonuses. If we are not training either we are sleeping or watching Bruce Lee movies just to wind down.”

Having run 05:29.01 last year – which was five minutes slower than his first win in 2009 – the runner said he was in good shape to better his course time by “15 to 20 minutes” on Sunday.

However, the opposition has warned Formula 1 not to count their chickens before they are hatched.

Graham Daniel of Mr Price said: “There is no doubt Stephen is the form guy at the moment but the pressure is on him as this is an up-run.

Our team is the same from last year with Ludwick Mamabolo ­(runner-up), ­Bongumusa Mthembu (third), Fusi Nhlapo (fifth) and Leboka Noto (ninth) who were all in the top 10.”

Mamabolo, the grandson of legendary 1970s and 80s runner Titus Mamabolo, was the first South African home after ­crossing the line six-and-a-half minutes behind Muzhingi.

He was a novice then.

Team ­manager Lucas ?­Mongatane, says Toyota will ­also unleash ­experienced runners.

“We have the likes of Herman Mokgadi, Joseph Mphuthi (both former Loskop Marathon winners) and Tsotang Maine, in the men’s group while ­Mamorolla Tjoka will also line up in her first Comrades in the women’s category.”

SA’s women medal hopefuls include Farwa Mentoor and Lindsay van Aswegen, who can test Russia’s dominant Nurgalieva twins, Elena and Olesya.

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