Distance runners Rene Kalmer and Lebo Phalula have confirmed they will throw their hats into the Olympic marathon qualifying race, revealing their participation at international events next month.
Having recovered from persistent injury niggles, Kalmer said on Wednesday she would turn out at the London Marathon on April 24, joining in-form compatriot Irvette van Zyl in the elite field.
“It was pretty tough getting into a marathon at such a late stage, but after being injured last year, most of the races were too early. At this stage every week of extra training is crucial,” Kalmer said at the launch of the 2016 Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series.
“London was ideal, falling in the period we have to qualify.”
Kalmer, who is fourth in the all-time SA rankings with her 2:29:27 personal best set in Berlin in 2014, admitted she was not in the best shape of her career.
She was confident, however, that she could book her place in the three-member national team for the Rio Games.
The 35-year-old athlete was the first SA woman home in the London Olympic marathon four years ago, taking 35th position in 2:30:51.
“I’m getting back into form. I’m not comparing things to where I used to be, but I’m taking it one week at a time, and just trying to get small victories and improvements every week.”
Phalula, meanwhile, said she had changed her mind after initially opting to focus on the track, and she would have another crack at a spot in the marathon team.
Though she clocked 2:38:55 in her 42km debut in Cape Town in September, Phalula had said she would not run another marathon for a couple of years.
With the Games drawing closer, however, she confirmed she would race at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands on April 17.
“I’m focussing on the marathon now. I’m not in shape for the track at the moment, and my training is better suited to the longer distance,” she said.
Having settled in third place among the qualifiers, Phalula was knocked down to fourth last week, reducing her chances of being selected – though Athletics SA and Sascoc retained the right to pick athletes outside the fastest three – after Jenna Challenor set a personal best of 2:37:12 in Nagoya.
With Kalmer’s younger sister, Christine, leading the qualifying race (2:33:43), and Mapaseka Makhanya currently filling third spot (2:37:21), the qualifying contest was hotting up ahead of the April 30 deadline.
Makhanya was also set to turn out in another qualifying attempt in Daegu on April 3, leaving the race wide open in the most competitive SA women’s marathon season in recent years.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed at the launch that a record purse of R410 000 would be on offer for the 2016 Spar Grand Prix series, including a first prize of R160 000.
The five-leg 10km women’s only campaign would start with the first leg in Cape Town on April 17.