National Olympic team members displayed fine form on Saturday, keeping pace at the SA Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth, in the final stages of their preparation for next month’s Rio Games.
In the men’s race, Stephen Mokoka made a solo attempt to chase down runaway Kenyan leader Edwin Koech in the second half, but he was unable to close a substantial gap and crossed the line in 1:01:26.
Mokoka, who will compete in the 10 000m event in Rio, completed the 21km race 10 seconds behind Koech to earn the national title.
Marathon specialists Sibusiso Nzima (1:02:37) and Lusapho April (1:02:39), also gearing up for the Olympics, ended seventh and eighth despite racking up high mileage ahead of the 42km road race in Rio.
In-form athlete Irvette van Zyl took her foot off the pedal in the first half, sitting back as Lebogang Phalula and Kenyan Sheila Chesang pushed the pace at the front of the women’s field.
Winding it up in the latter stages, Van Zyl chased down Phalula with a couple of kilometres remaining and came within two seconds of catching Chesang.
The Kenyan secured the overall victory in 1:10:58, and Van Zyl covered the distance in 1:11:00, missing out on her five-year-old personal best by four seconds to win the national championships gold medal.
Results of the 2016 SA Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth:
Men: 1 Edwin Koech (KEN) 1:01:16, 2 Stephen Mokoka (AGN) 1:01:26, 3 Asefa Negewo (ETH) 1:01:36, 4 David Manja (ACNW) 1:02:15, 5 Benedict Moeng (AGN-I) 1:02:23, 6 Gladwin Mzazi (CGA) 1:02:27, 7 Sibusiso Nzima (CGA) 1:02:37, 8 Lusapho April (BORA) 1:02:39, 9 Phillemon Mathiba (CGA) 1:02:40, 10 Joel Mmone (ACNW) 1:03:16
Women: 1 Sheila Chesang (KEN) 1:10:58, 2 Irvette van Zyl (AGN) 1:11:00, 3 Lebogang Phalula (CGA) 1:11:35, 4 Mapaseka Makhanya (CGA) 1:14:06, 5 Chelitu Asefa (ETH) 1:14:40, 6 Asafe Taye (ETH) 1:15:34, 7 Jenet Dlamini (KZNA) 1:15:44, 8 Zintle Xiniwe (WPA) 1:16:38, 9 Benoy Cheruiyot (KEN) 1:16:39, 10 Cornelia Joubert (CGA) 1:17:00