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Stage is set for KZN athletes to make their mark on a global stage

By Jerry Barnes

A total of 14 athletes will represent SA at the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia.

Seasoned KwaZulu-Natal runner Jenet Mbhele.
Seasoned KwaZulu-Natal runner Jenet Mbhele. PHOTO: ROGAN WARD

The selection of several KwaZulu-Natal athletes to represent the country in upcoming international championships means a great deal to the sport in the province, according to key figures.

The national governing body, Athletics South Africa (ASA), unveiled two road running teams for World Championship events a few days ago.

Six of the athletes are from KZN and, according to the Pietermaritzburg-based coaches Xolani Mabhida and Martin Ngwenya, their selection speaks volumes.

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Mabhida said it means local coaches are doing something right, especially in road running, and need to be applauded for that.

The selections clearly mean road running is really on the right track around KZN, especially in the uMgungundlovu region. Personally I expected a larger amount of our athletes to be in the current team going to the World Champs, but I heard that there were some other athletes who rejected the offer from ASA to represent the country in the forthcoming events.

Ngwenya said it is always encouraging to see local names getting called up for national duty and this means “growth” in local sport.

Besides being excited about our athletes receiving national call-ups, their selection is big news to us and achievement, when you look at the development of this sport. Also, the number of our athletes in the national team means that we are going higher and higher in road running.

The athletes from KZN are Tayla Kavanagh from Hillcrest (5 km), Nkosikhona Mhlakwana from Howick (50 km), Pule Sibeko from Imbali (50 km), Sikhumbuzo Seme from uMlazi (50 km), Jenet Mbhele from Mzimkhulu (50 km) and Makhosi Mhlongo from Hammarsdale (50 km).

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A total of 14 athletes will represent the country at the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia between September 30 and October 1.

A full-strength men’s team in the half-marathon features Thabang Mosiako, Precious Mashele, Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant, while the women’s team includes Glenrose Xaba, Cacisile Sosibo, Cian Oldknow and Kesa Molotsane.

With the global championships featuring shorter distance races for the first time, Nicolas Seoposengwe and Maxime Chaumeton will compete in the men’s 5 km race, with Kavanagh and Kyla Jacobs competing in the women’s 5 km contest.

In the street mile (1,609 km), Ryan Mphahlele and Carina Viljoen will compete in the men’s and women’s events, respectively.

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Also, 12 ultra-distance runners have been included in the ASA team for the IAU 50km World Championships in Hyderabad, India, on November 5.

The men’s team features a mix of talent and experience, including Dan Matshailwe, Mhlakwana, Sibeko, Gladwin Mzazi, Seme and Rufus Photo, as does the women’s squad which consists of Adele Broodryk, Mbhele, Stella Marais, Makhosazane Mhlongo, Gelaletsang Mekgoe and Deanne Loubsher.