The Spar Grand Prix is back

The popular event will offer more prize money for top women athletes.

South Africa’s top women athletes have something to celebrate – the Spar Grand Prix will be back this year. 

There was no Spar Grand Prix in 2020 because of the global pandemic.

Covid-19 protocols mean that the Spar Grand Prix will be much smaller this year, but the top runners will receive generous cash prizes. The series will take place over six races in six cities, with prize money of a handsome R100 000 for each race. The ultimate winner will receive R185 000. The runner who comes second will win R75 000 and the third-placed runner will receive R45 000. The total prize money this year, for the six races and the Spar Grand Prix, is more than R1-million.

Pictured at the launch of the 2021 Spar Grand Prix series are former winners Kesa Molotsane (2017), Lebogang Phalula (2015), Poppy Mlambo (2008), Irvette van Zyl (2010/2011/2016), Mapaseka Makhanya (2013), René Kalmer (2007/2009/2012), Glenrose Xaba (2018) and Diana-Lebo Phalula (2014). Picture credit: Christiaan Kotze

Spar was approached by Athletics South Africa (ASA) and the Department of Sport and Recreation to assist roadrunners who have been unable to earn money because of the pandemic. After consultations with ASA and the government, it was decided to limit each race to 250 runners, with no spectators allowed. Entry is strictly by invitation, and the six races will be known as the Spar Grand Prix 10km Invitational.   

The specific venues for the six host cities have still to be confirmed. The races will be run over two 5km loops. Invitations will be issued to girls and women in all age categories, from junior to the over 70s. 

Each race will be live-streamed and a highlights package will be broadcast on SABC TV.

There will be no Spar Challenge series this year. Instead, women around the country are encouraged to enter the Spar Women’s Virtual Challenge to be staged in spring.

Spar Group marketing executive Mike Prentice said the company was delighted to be able to host the event again. 

“The Spar Grand Prix is one of our premier sponsorships,” said Prentice. 

“Many of our top women have benefited financially from the Spar Grand Prix, which has made a significant difference to their lives.

“We were very happy to work with ASA and the government and to reinstate the Spar Grand Prix, which had to be cancelled last year. We hope that in 2022, we can go back to the old format, with thousands of women and girls taking part in the six races. We hope that they will turn out in droves for the exciting new-look Spar Women’s Virtual Challenge later this year,” said Prentice.

The first Spar Invitational Grand Prix will be in Durban on June 27. That will be followed by the Tshwane race on August 7 and the Pietermaritzburg Invitational on August 22. The Cape Town Invitational takes place on September 4 and the Johannesburg race will be run on October 3. The final race will be in Gqeberha on October 9. 

“Spar is a big friend of athletics and has been so for many years. When we approached them to assist, as a true friend does, they looked and found a solution,” said James Moloi, the president of Athletics South Africa. “Through Spar’s involvement with this unique six-part race, they have unearthed new gems, motivated those elite athletes seeking fame and fortune, and revived the hopes and drive of many female athletes.

“And despite having to cancel their ever-popular Spar Women’s Challenge series due to the pandemic, they have been creative in coming up with the hosting of a women’s only virtual challenge which is greatly appreciated by ASA and our 17 member provinces. 

“Covid-19 has changed the order of life in our country and although it has had a negative effect on athletics events in general, virtual events like the Spar Women’s Virtual Challenge have given hope to serious and social athletes who love to run and walk, to compete or simply to keep fit and healthy.

“We certainly welcome the news that Spar will host a 2021 six-race Spar Grand Prix for the top women athletes who have been deprived of competition and income through prize money for the past 18 months,” said Moloi.

Mike Prentice, Spar Group marketing executive, and James Moloi, ASA president, celebrate the return of the Spar Grand Prix series. Picture credit: Christiaan Kotze

“This is very exciting news,” said three-time Grand Prix winner René Kalmer.

“It gives people a reason to train, knowing there is something like this on the horizon. The past year has been very tough for runners because they haven’t been able to earn any money from running. Some runners, and their families, depend on their income from running.

“Spar is spending more than R1-m in prize money and I think they have to be congratulated for continuing to do their part in motivating runners and assisting them financially,” said Kalmer.

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