Horror death of SA running star

2011-12-24 00:00

SOUTH African athletics has been rocked by the death of one of the country’s top distance runners, Zithulele Sinqe.

Sinqe (48), a two-time Two Oceans marathon winner, was decapitated when his bakkie was hit by a truck near Balfour on Thursday morning.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Hlathi said Sinqe was driving a Ford Bantam bakkie towing a trailer with a BMW on it.

On a steep uphill, the bakkie apparently struggled with the heavy load and came to a stop.

The bakkie and trailer ran backwards and jack-knifed, and a truck carrying a load of sand hit it, pushed it 200 metres and landed on top of the bakkie.

Sinqe excelled in all disciplines of the sport, but it was his 2:08:04 marathon time in Port Elizabeth on May 3, 1986 that made the world stand up and take notice.

Having trailed Willie Mtolo for much of the race, he made a charge over the final kilometres to take the SA Championship title 11 seconds ahead of Mtolo — the fifth fastest marathon in the world.

Just 14 months later, Sinqe shared a time of 60 minutes 11 seconds with Matthews Temane in the SA Half Marathon championships in East London.

Although Temane was adjudged to have the slight edge, the pair would have been lauded for what was a world record time had it not been for an administrative decision to finish the three-lap race on a downhill.

That move saw the drop on the course being seven metres more than accepted for records, but the level of his performance was such that it took a decade before Kenyan Shem Kororia ran his 59:56 in Kosice.

Although regarded as a marathoner, Sinqe’s 28:30 for 10 km in Cape Town in 1986 was the fifth fastest ever by a South African and he was awarded colours for Cross Country.

At the other end of the spectrum Sinqe won the Two Oceans Marathon (56km) in 1996 and 1997 and then in 2000 made his debut in the Comrades Marathon, finishing fourth behind Russia’s Vladimir Kotov. It was in the PE marathon that Willie Mtolo and Sinqe solidified a lasting friendship. “I was really shocked to hear of his death,” Mtolo said yesterday.

“I spoke with him on the phone on Wednesday he was in great form. Two weeks ago we were running together as part of the Sporting Heroes Aids campaign. We ran in Johannesburg, Vryheid, Mtubatuba and Underberg. We agreed that in 2013 or 2014 we would run Comrades together at the back just to enjoy the race again.”

Sporting isolation resulted in Sinqe failing to receive the recognition, and the financial rewards, that his performances deserved.

Mtolo and Sinqe spent much of their time running for the same clubs, commencing with Mr Price, then Harmony where Sinqe commenced a formal development programme and coaching.

Sinqe’s passion for the sport was immediately obvious and came to the fore whether he was talking socially, coaching, delivering a talk, or commentating for SABC. His knowledge and empathy for the athlete was a cornerstone of his interviews.

“Sinqe was a member of the CGA commission, so this is a big loss to the province and to the sport of athletics,” Mandla Radebe, the general manager of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA), said.

“Zet always had a smile on his face, and was able to chuckle about himself,” said Bruce Fordyce, who worked with him as part of the Nedbank club.

“He is one of the few runners who excelled, but after retiring put back into the sport. He was always concerned about others. Always willing to advise, coach and support.”

Nic Bester, the Nedbank team manager, echoed Fordyce’s comment. “Ever since the Harmony club days in 2000, Zet pushed the development side.

“He was special, He didn’t talk development, he made it happen and got involved on the ground.”

He leaves behind his wife, Phindle, son Siyabulena and daughter Zintle.

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