Lungile Gongqa made amends for his failure to finish last year’s Rio Olympic marathon, breaking a four-year South African drought in the men’s race, while Maryna Damantsevich of Belarus delivered a superb gun-to-tape victory on debut in the women’s contest, at the Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town on Saturday.
Gongqa made a break down the back of the Constantia Nek climb in the second half, and though Warinyane Lebopo of Lesotho worked hard to close the gap, the Eastern Cape athlete burst clear again in the latter stages to win the 56km race in 3:09:43.
Lebopo held on for second place in 3:10:21, earning his fourth gold medal at the annual contest, with countryman Teboho Sello grabbing third spot in 3:11:48.
Collen Makaza of Zimbabwe was 29 seconds further back, finishing among the top four at Two Oceans for the fifth time in six years.
Gongqa, who made his second appearance at the gruelling race after finishing 29th on debut in 2012, was one of only three SA men who finished among the top 10.
He became the first local athlete to win the race since David Gatebe in 2013.
Damantsevich, meanwhile, produced a brave run, crossing the line in 3:37:13.
She was more than 10 minutes clear of Durbanite Jenna Challenor, who started conservatively and worked her way through the field to finish second in her maiden ultra-marathon in 3:47:32.
“I just thought I’d stick to my plan and see what it gave me,” Challenor said.
“Just before 28km I was lying fourth or fifth and I overtook two or three people. I was suddenly lying second and I thought, ‘Oh, well, let’s give it a go’.”
Tanith Maxwell ended third in 3:55:42, stepping on the podium for the third year in a row, with seven SA women finishing in the top 10.
Defending champion Caroline Wostmann dropped out of the race in the first half with a hamstring injury, and it was unclear whether she would be ready to defend her ‘up’ run crown at the 87km Comrades Marathon in June.
“I’ve been struggling a bit with a tight hamstring all week, and unfortunately about 10km in I felt my hamstring pull,” Wostmann said.
“I thought it was best to be safe, pull out of the race and try and treat it before Comrades.”
Namakoe Nkhasi and Irvette van Zyl successfully defended their Two Oceans half-marathon titles.
Nkhasi covered the 21.1km distance in a course record 1:03:15, finishing 30 seconds ahead of fellow Lesotho athlete Khoarahlane Seutlaoli in the men’s race.
In-form cross country star David Manja was the first South African home in 1:04:19.
Van Zyl showed she was regaining her best form, securing a convincing victory in the women’s battle in 1:13:53.
Compatriot Nolene Conrad grabbed second place in 1:14:27.
Men: 1 Lungile Gongqa (RSA) 3:09:43, 2 Warinyane Lebopo (LES) 3:10:21, 3 Teboho Sello (LES) 3:11:48, 4 Collen Makaza (ZIM) 3:12:17, 5 Melly Kennedy (KEN) 3:13:36, 6 Dinke Kebede (ETH) 3:14:19, 7 Bongmusa Mthembu (RSA) 3:14:44, 8 Stephen Muzhingi (ZIM) 3:15:47, 9 Siphiwe Ndlela (RSA) 3:17:06, 10 Moeketsi Mosuhli (LES) 3:17:36
Women: 1 Maryna Damantsevich (BLR) 3:37:13, 2 Jenna Challenor (RSA) 3:47:32, 3 Tanith Maxwell (RSA) 3:55:42, 4 Mary Khourie (RSA) 4:01:08, 5 Ntombesintu Mfunzi (RSA) 4:01:26, 6 Ulrica Stander (RSA) 4:02:45, 7 Janie Grundling (RSA) 4:03:51, 8 Tabitha Tsatsa (ZIM) 4:04:08, 9 Stephanie Smith (RSA) 4:04:16, 10 Sarah Bard (USA) 4:05:16
Men: 1 Namakoe Nkhasi (LES) 1:03:15, 2 Khoarahlane Seutlaoli (LES) 1:03:45, 3 David Manja (RSA) 1:04:19, 4 Lucky Mohale (RSA) 1:04:36, 5 Thabang Mosiako (RSA) 1:04:38, 6 Melikhaya Frans (RSA) 1:05:07, 7 Gladwin Mzazi (RSA) 1:05:22, 8 Marianio Eesou (RSA) 1:05:35, 9 Silindile Gubese (RSA) 1:05:59, 10 Phillimon Mathipa (RSA) 1:06:24
Women: 1 Irvette van Zyl (RSA) 1:13:53, 2 Nolene Conrad (RSA) 1:14:27, 3 Louisa Leballo (RSA) 1:15:00, 4 Cornelia Joubert (RSA) 1:15:23, 5 Lebogang Phalula (RSA) 1:16:18, 6 Lavinia Haitope (NAM) 1:16:26, 7 Mapaseka Makhanya (RSA) 1:17:17, 8 Rutendo Nyahora (ZIM) 1:18:11, 9 Christine Kalmer (RSA) 1:18:46, 10 Rhudo Monderwa (ZIM) 1:19:53