Risky tactics for Team SA at half marathon

2012-10-06 00:00

MULTIPLE champion Zersenay Tadese is expected to once again feature on the podium at today’s World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria, where South Africa’s best chances lie with the team awards.

The Eritrean won the title four times from 2006 to 2009 and holds the world record of 58 minutes 23 seconds, but could well be challenged by Kenyan Eluid Kipchoge, who made his debut to the distance in September with a stunning 59:25 in Lille, France.

This made him the second fastest ever novice to the 21 km distance, but even then the world half championships have delivered 12 sub-60 performances, with the top seven set in Udine in 2007.

Stephen Mokoka leads the SA men’s challenge with a best of 60:57, set on the undulating Cape course in July. Lucky Mohale and Gladwin Mzazi, who recorded 61:38 and 61:08 in the SA Championships, back him up.

While these times are unlikely to set the world on fire, they are consistent enough to see them into the top six teams and the prize money.

Other than Kenyans and Ethiopians, only Tadese and Japan’s Chihiro Miyawaki are ranked above Mokoka in the 2012 rankings, which opens the opportunity for a podium if the guys in green and gold can run with both their heads and their hearts. Each country is only allowed to enter one team of seven, of whom five can run and the first three count. Although this effectively eliminates 45 Kenyan and Ethiopians ahead of Mokoka’s 70th place ranking, and places the Gauteng North man into the top 10, South Africa have adopted a high risk tactic of selecting the bare minimum of three runners, which puts considerable pressure on the trio.

Elana Meyer is the only SA woman to make the podium at the world championships, earning gold in 1994 and silver in 1998.

America’s Shalane Flanagan, a strong cross country runner who clocked 68:52 in Lisbon, is considered one of the main contenders alongside Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, who debuted in 76:07 in 2010. The double Olympic 5 000 m silver medallist is ninth fastest ever, but does not feature in the top 100 performances this year.

Florence Kiplagat heads the 2012 rankings with a 66:38, with René Kalmer’s personal best of 70:13 — set last month — ranking 76th in a list that has 21 Kenyan runners in the top 30.

Although only 17 runners ahead of Kalmer are from outside Kenya or Ethiopia, the SA women are unlikely to present much of a challenge as both Christine Kalmer and Nolene Conrad, even at their best, are minutes adrift.

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