It’s Muzhingi against Shvetsov

2012-06-02 00:00

ONE of the eagerly anticipated battles in tomorrow’s Comrades Marathon down run to Durban is the showdown between current three-time champion Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi and two-time winner Leonid Shvetsov from Russia.

The latter was king of the road in 2007 and 2008, setting a new record for the down run of 5:20:41 in 2007, beating second place Grigory Murzin (5:30:12) by nearly 10 minutes.

Shvetsov looked set to become the new dominating force, but the wheels fell off in 2009 when, leading the down run through Westville, he relinquished his throne to Muzhingi, who had bagged third the previous year.

Shvetsov admitted that his legs packed up and he struggled on gamely to keep second place, albeit over 10 minutes behind the flying Zimbabwean whose win heralded a new era in Comrades history. It was a shattering experience for the Russian, who announced his retirement from Comrades and disappeared from the scene, leaving the way open for Muzhingi, who has been dominant since, eyeing his fourth consecutive win tomorrow to join Arthur Newton and Bruce Fordyce as the only other winners to achieve this.

This year heralds the return of the Russian, running in the colours of Nedbank Running Club, managed by former Comrades winner Nick Bester, who is upbeat on his charge getting a top 10 finish.

“Leonid has done extensive training and a gold medal is his target this year. He wanted to run last year, but conditions were not conducive. While he may not win, his record and pedigree cannot be ignored.”

Muzhingi has no fear of an upset, preferring to focus on his fourth win, which is definitely on the cards. “I have no fear of Shvetsov.

“He is to be respected, but after a two-year break, he has much ground to make up. I am more concerned about the threat from runners who have pushed me to the limit in my past two victories,” he said.

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