Mentoor determined to reclaim crown

2009-05-22 00:00

FARWA Mentoor, the perennial winner of the first South African finisher in the Comrades Marathon doesn’t hide the fact she intends reclaiming her crown in Sunday’s down run Comrades Marathon.

The Cape-based athlete is the only woman among the Bonitas team and will go head to head with Mr Price’s Riana van Niekerk, who last year took the award for the first time in seven years.

“I’ve done the work. I know what I’ve got to do and I’m really positive, particularly after sorting out the problems I had at Two Oceans,” said Mentoor referring to breathing restrictions she experienced, which have subsequently been diagnosed as exercised-induced asthma.

“Since taking the medication, I have managed to do my speed work and tempo runs without any reaction.”

Worldwide, a higher than average number of elite sports men and women suffer from this form of asthma and many have to rely on medication for which they gain “therapeutic use exemption” (TUE) for testing purposes.

“I’ll be running my own race, but on the day I’d hope to match or improve on my previous best,” continued Mentoor who has an eighth and two fourth places from the last three down runs and best Maritzburg to Durban time of 6:19,20.

She should be assured of increasing her haul to eight gold from eight starts, and could well pick up the pieces from any battles between Marina Bychkova, Marina Myshlyanova or Tatyana Zhirkova who are tipped to be fighting it out for places behind the Nurgalieva twins.

Expectations of a gold medal from a local runner look slim, but the contest for the Department of Sport and Culture’s R10 000 prize for the first KwaZulu-Natal woman could be tough.

The most obvious contender would be Kerry Koen who will be facing her third Comrades and looking for her first silver medal. The 32-year-old Collegians Harrier won the PostNet Marathon in March before adding a win in the Bergville to Ladysmith 52 kilometres.

She placed 19th in her 2007 debut, improved to 17th in last year’s up run and her improved marathon time of three hours three minutes makes a seven hour 20 minutes finish a potential for a top 12th to 15th spot.

“I started Bergville easy and tried to step it up towards the end. I really felt good and that’s the way I plan to handle Sunday,” said the Pietermaritzburg-based mother.

Durban-based Sandy de Beer was the last silver medallist in the 2007 down run and must be considered a contender for the provincial award. With eight medals to date she has greater experience of handling the distance and over the past six months has been honing her training towards a second silver. “We did the club run three weeks ago, but only ran the last 40 kilometres, so last weekend we drove the first part to remind ourselves,” said the South African National Defence Force runner. “It’s amazing just how the memory fades over a year, but training and hill work have gone well.”

The best from the north coast is expected to be physiotherapist Melanie van Rooyen, who won the hot and hilly Exxaro Marathon in three hours 13 minutes. The time belies this Canon Richards Bay Athlete’s determination and endurance. Although second to Koen in the Bergville to Ladysmith she was eighth overall in the gruelling Sani Pass marathon which is an up-and-back to the highest pass in South Africa, and has completed the Ironman, both of which indicate the necessary determination and pacing to go the distance. However, she is a novice at the 89 km race and as such her finish and KwaZulu-Natal title chances may well be determined by her first 20 kilometres to Umlaas Road.

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