Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
1 minute read
23 Aug 2017
3:27 pm

Grand Prix world women’s series closer than ever

Wesley Botton

The competitive series is bound to become even more so with the introduction of international competition.

PIETERMARITZBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 20: The leading group during the SPAR Women’s Challenge at Oval Cricket Stadium on August 20, 2017 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

This year’s Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series has been the most competitive since it was launched in 2007, according to Ian Laxton, the man behind the concept of the annual road running campaign.

Expanding the series this season, organisers had added a sixth leg and opened the Grand Prix to foreign athletes for the first time.

While local runners continued to dominate, the 2017 campaign was a hard-fought affair, which was ultimately swayed by the doping ban of Louisa Leballo and her subsequent removal from the results.

With Leballo scratched after winning the opening leg in Cape Town, former track specialist Kesa Molotsane was dominant in her maiden campaign.

Molotsane held 137 points ahead of the final leg in Joburg on October 8, and she was 21 points clear of former winner Irvette van Zyl who had been unable to close the gap after dropping out of the Durban race in June due to injury.

Though there was still a slim chance Van Zyl could lift the crown, she would need to win the last leg with bonus points and Molotsane would need to finish outside the top 10.

Nolene Conrad was well behind in third place but she led a close battle for the last podium spot, with Lebogang Phalula and Glenrose Xaba both within seven points.

Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora was the first international athlete in the standings, in sixth position overall.

“We’ve got one race to go and it’s been without a doubt the best Grand Prix we’ve ever had. It’s been super competitive,” Laxton said on Thursday.

After attracting 14 000 runners and walkers last year, organisers of the Joburg race hoped the new venue at Marks Park would expand the field to 16 000 participants in the 10km and 5km events.