Comrades star Mthembu to part ways with coach

This year's Mandela Day Marathon will be dominated by South Africans, believes Comrades Marathon champ Bongmusa Mthembu.
This year's Mandela Day Marathon will be dominated by South Africans, believes Comrades Marathon champ Bongmusa Mthembu.
Gallo Images

Powerful athlete Bongmusa Mthembu’s five-year relationship with local coach Xolani Mabhida, which has delivered two Comrades Marathon titles, is surprisingly coming to an end, The Witness can reveal.

While Mthembu was coy to confirm the split but gave hints about it, Mabhida confirmed yesterday that the star runner is definitely not renewing his coaching contract.

Signs that the relationship may be over have been there for a while as Mthembu has not been training much under the supervision of the young, but respected Mabhida since athletes were allowed to resume training during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two have reportedly only met to discuss a training programme for Mthembu to follow for the rest of the year.

Asked about their future together, three-time Comrades winner Mthembu said: “Yes, our contract is coming to an end this year.

“When it ends, I will have to find out if I will still have the same management or not, I still have a contract with him that lapses in November.

“However, because the contract is left with a couple of months if anyone between us has something to say about the future to each other, we can say it now, but the deadline is November.”

On Tuesday, Mabhida said he had already started working with other athletes and focusing on his Maritzburg-based academy, Home of Athletes and Artists. “We had a contract that was due to end this year and by the look of things, it seems like I won’t be able to renew the contract because I need to focus on another group of young athletes,” said Mabhida.

“That was the plan between me and Bongmusa that this will be our final year working together.

“Also, I plan to spend only six years with that group and after that I will be looking for other young athletes to help develop into champions.”

Under the guidance of Mabhida, the Arthur Ford Athletics Club runner won back-to-back Comrades titles in 2017 and 2018, won the Two Oceans Marathon last year and finished on the podium twice at the IAU 100 km World Championships.

But in spite of the pair parting ways, they both maintain their relationship is not in tatters.

“My relationship with Xolani, my management and sponsors is really in a good space, but because at the end of the day we are all doing jobs, if they say ‘Bongmusa we didn’t do well this year and this is what we think will be the best way forward’, I will accept that,” said Mthembu.

Mthembu doesn’t believe the change will affect him negatively as he says he has changed teams or coaches before and still done well. “As an athlete, you need to have the drive and ambition to succeed, as well. What drives me is that I love running with everything I have and when you get people who are willing to assist you and willing to be with you, you need to appreciate that,” he said.

With athletics competitions suspended in the country at the moment, Mthembu is part of the “Battle of the Sports” exhibition event which sees teams from four major sporting codes compete in a 200 km endurance race in the Northern Cape desert around Verneukpan.

 

BATTLE OF THE SPORTS TEAMS

Cricket: Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini,

Monde Zondeki; managed by Jonty Rhodes.

Rugby: Hanyani Shimange, John Smit,

Schalk Brits; managed by Butch James.

Running: Bongmusa Mthembu, David Gatebe,

Jenna Challenor; managed by Bruce Fordyce.

Soccer: Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe,

Teko Modise; managed by Neil Tovey.

• sithembiso.dindi@wintess.co.za

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