Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Viewers shut out as Ethiopian athletes dominate Soweto Marathon

The race, which attracted nearly 20 000 entrants, was not broadcast or streamed live due to an apparent dispute between stakeholders.

While controversy bubbled behind the scenes due to a near blackout of live media coverage, Ethiopian athletes stole the show on the road, dominating the 27th edition of the Soweto Marathon by winning the men’s and women’s races on Sunday.

After a couple of other athletes helped set the early pace, Gadisa Bekele Gutama took control in the first half and stayed a few hundred metres ahead of the chasing group for most of the 42km contest.

He was caught, however, by countryman Daba Ifa Debele, who produced a spectacular finish, timing his race perfectly as he launched a late kick to secure victory in 2:18:58.

Long-time leader Gutama held on to finish second in 2:19:27, with Tsepo Ramashamole of Lesotho grabbing third spot in 2:20:21.

Ntsindiso Mphakathi was the first local athlete across the line, taking fifth place in 2:21:21, with four South Africans finishing among the top 10.

Women’s race

In the women’s marathon, Chaltu Bedo Negashu led a podium sweep for Ethiopia, adding to their impressive one-two in the men’s event.

Negashu finished in 2:40:56, holding off challenges from compatriots Amelework Fikadu Bosho (2:43:14) and Tinebebe Nebiyu Ali (2:44:32) who were second and third respectively.

Chaltu Bedo Negashu at the Soweto Marathon
Chaltu Bedo Negashu after winning the Soweto Marathon. Picture: @SowetoMarathon

With record holder Irvette van Zyl withdrawing ahead of the race due to injury, the local contingent struggled against the international onslaught.

Ultra-distance runner Adele Broodryk was the only South African woman in the top 10, finishing ninth in 2:57:16.

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

Over shorter distances through the streets of the historical township, David Manja (1:07:35) and Lebo Phalula (1:21:46) won the men’s and women’s half-marathon races, with Mathews Leeto (30:15) and Cacisile Sosibo (35:14) taking the men’s and women’s 10km titles.

There was controversy on the eve of the race, which attracted nearly 20 000 entrants, when it was revealed it would not be broadcast or streamed live on any platform due to an apparent dispute between broadcasters, organisers and the national federation.

The public responded with criticism on social media, but stakeholders had not yet confirmed details around the shut-out of one of the country’s most popular mass participation sporting events.

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