In-form distance runner Stephen Mokoka lost out in the latter stages in the early hours of Sunday morning, after putting up a brave fight in the men’s marathon race at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.
With the road race starting at midnight to combat the humid conditions, Mokoka was a prominent figure in the lead group, which was whittled down to five athletes with a few kilometres remaining in the 42km contest.
After closing down the small pack, however, British athlete Callum Hawkins produced a late surge and stretched them out, with Mokoka slipping off the pace in the long drive for home.
The 34-year-old athlete crossed the line in fifth place in 2:11:09, less than half a minute behind Ethiopian winner Lelisa Desisa and just 18 seconds outside a podium place.
It was the best ever result by a South African in the marathon race at the World Championships.
Earlier, with the SA team aiming to break a medal drought on the penultimate day of the 10-day track and field showpiece, the national men’s 4x100m relay team also settled for fifth position.
The quartet, consisting of Thando Dlodlo, Simon Magakwe, Clarence Munyai and Akani Simbine, stormed home in 37.73 seconds.
They were just 0.08 shy of the SA record they had set in the heats, completing the race 0.30 behind the Japanese team who earned bronze.
Having done well to reach the women’s 5 000m final, Dom Scott-Efurd tried to go with the early pace but was ultimately left trailing the rest of the field, and she ended 15th in 15:24.47.
Rikenette Steenkamp was set to turn out as the last SA athlete in action at the global championships, with the pocket rocket from Pretoria lining up in the women’s 100m hurdles semifinals on Sunday night.
She was unlikely to compete for a place in the final, however, and the national squad were expected to return home empty handed.