Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Comrades Marathon ‘trailblazer and pioneer’ Sam Tshabalala dies

Tshabalala completed the Comrades Marathon 13 times between 1987 and 2002.

Friends and rivals have paid tribute to distance running icon Sam Tshabalala after it was confirmed the former elite athlete had died on Sunday at the age of 64.

Tshabalala, from Zamdela township near Sasolburg, made history in 1989 when he became the first black athlete to win the prestigious Comrades Marathon.

His elite career was later derailed after he was involved in a car accident in 1991 which left him with long-term injuries.

A popular figure in the South African road running community, he continued to participate in the sport, though he was unable to return to his best.

ALSO READ: SA athletes must ‘work together’ to bridge the gap, says Broodryk

Tshabalala ran his last Comrades in 2002, closing out his career with 12 silver medals and one gold from the ultra-distance race.

In 1998 he received a Platinum Award from the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) and in 2016 he received a lifetime achievement accolade at the Sport Industry Awards.

Mqondisi Ngcobo, the CMA chairperson, said Tshabalala was a legend of the sport.

“What Mr Tshabalala did for ultra-running and our generation of athletes is part and parcel of our road-running history and great South African heritage. He showed us how to be courageous, great and at the same time humble and real,” Ngcobo said.

“Sam was a trailblazer and pioneer. He was someone who lived out the noble attributes of the ‘Ultimate Human Race’ by his determined nature, will to succeed and continuously giving of his best. He will be sadly missed by the Comrades community and everyone who knew him.”

Read more on these topics

Comrades Marathon road running

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits