Stars of difficult 2021 SPAR Grand Prix honoured in Pretoria

Despite all the challenges of the Covid regulations and lockdown obstacles, the SPAR Grand Prix continued on a smaller scale this year and on Tuesday the athletes were finally able to reap the rewards for their sacrifice and hard work in these difficult conditions during this series' awards ceremony in Irene, Centurion.

Only two days after she stunned the sports community worldwide with her performance in the Barcelona marathon, Tadu Nare was back in Irene, Centurion on Tuesday, November 9, where she could personally receive her prize as winner of the 2021 SPAR Grand Prix.

At the beginning of this year, very few in athletic circles knew who Tadu Nare was. Now, eleven months later, the 20-year-old Ethiopian athlete is an up-and-coming global superstar who not only made a clean sweep in the SPAR Grand Prix this year, but stunned experts this past weekend by winning the Barcelona Marathon with her first attempt over that distance in a competitive race. The 20-year-old captured the imagination of millions of athletics lovers by winning this race in 2:23:53 in her marathon debut.

This makes her the first-ever runner in Barcelona with a time under 2:24 hours. At the SPAR Grand Prix Awards ceremony, Nare received R190 000 for winning the series in 2021, to add to the R150 000 prize money for the six races she won. She said she hoped to return to South Africa to defend her title in 2022. “I love South Africa, it is like a second home to me. I am very grateful to SPAR for putting on the races and giving us an opportunity to compete,” she said at the awards ceremony, while the guests cheered her loudly.

The SPAR Grand Prix awards ceremony in Irene was in itself a special opportunity to celebrate this year’s series.

This year looked as if it would be another bleak year for athletes, with races cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions. But as the third wave passed its peak, the Department of Sport and Recreation, Athletics South Africa (ASA) and sponsors put their heads together to try to work out a solution that would provide top runners with opportunities to compete and to earn some money. These races, which are run at six major centres around South Africa, normally attract tens of thousands of runners and walkers.

SPAR agreed with the department and ASA that it would be impossible to stage the series of 10km SPAR Women’s races safely, but decided to present the six races in the SPAR Grand Prix, restricted to top runners.

Whereas the SPAR Grand Prix normally takes place over about six months, this year’s series took place in a period of two months, from August to October. The six races were restricted to a maximum of 250 runners and adhered strictly to the Covid-19 protocols, and they proved to be a great success. The top runners were thrilled to have an opportunity to compete and the series saw the emergence of some new talent.

But the star of the series was the young Ethiopian runner, Tadu Nare, who participated in the colours of the Nedbank Running Club. She swept to victory in all six races, finishing with a total of 150 points. Former titleholder Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) was the runner-up and took home R90 000. Molotsane was proof of the importance of consistency in the SPAR Grand Prix and of taking part in as many races as possible.

She finished second in Cape Town and Johannesburg, fourth in Pietermaritzburg and Gqeberha, fifth in Tshwane and 10th in Durban, for a total of 129 points. There was a battle royal for the next three places, with three runners finishing within a point of one another.

Two runners – Fortunate Chidzivo (Retail Capital) and Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) – finished in joint third position, with 117 points each.

Like Molotsane, Chidzivo’s success was the result of consistency and taking part in all six races. She finished fifth, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and 11th. Xaba, on the other hand, finished second three times (Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Tshwane), third in Gqeberha and fourth in Johannesburg.

However, she missed the Cape Town race and was never able to make up the missing points. Xaba and Chidzivo shared the prize money for third and fourth place and received R47 500 each. Murray & Roberts proved to be the dominant club, finishing the series with 731 points.

Nedbank was second, with 605, followed by Boxer with 368. SPAR Group marketing executive Mike Prentice was delighted with the success of the 2021 SPAR Grand Prix Series. “Obviously, we look forward to having the mass entries back as soon as possible, but we are so happy that we were able to stage the invitational races this year,” he said.

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