DURBAN Ludwick Mamabolo broke the foreign stranglehold on the Comrades Marathon to win the 89km down run in Durban yesterday morning while defending champion Stephen Muzhingi was seventh.
In fact, Muzhingis dilemma was even made worse as fellow Zimbabwean Marko Mambo finished better than him, in fourth place in a good time of 5.33:44secs. Muzhingi recorded 5.38:02secs. In 2009, Muzhingi clocked 5.23:27secs, but was six minutes slower in winning the same race in 2001, finishing in 5.29:01secs.
He was even three minutes slower last year, coming home in 5.32:46secs. Russian Leonid Svhetsov kept his promise of beating Muzhingi when he came in at fifth place.
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart said on his Tweeter account after the race: Sadly Stephen Muzhingi did not manage to win his fourth Comrades in a row. He competed well so we remain very proud of him.
Next year Stephen!
Mamobolo, who finished second in 2010 after Muzhingi, took the lead after four hours of running to secure victory. Lebohang Monyele took the early lead in the 87th edition of the race, but was caught by fellow novice Gert Thys shortly before the halfway mark.
Thys, the South Africa record holder in the standard marathon, had said before the race he was confident of setting a new course record.
He blew up spectacularly, however, after going through the halfway stage at Drummond with a lead of more than seven minutes over the other real contenders. Mamabolo took the lead after four hours of running and tore clear to bag the first local victory in the race since Sipho Ngomane won in 2005.
Elena Nurgalieva secured her seventh victory in the womens race, and her third in succession, despite the absence of twin sister Olesya, who skipped the race after giving birth to her first child.
Nurgalieva, who won in 6.07:12secs, brushed off challenges from other foreign athletes, including fellow Russian Natalia Volgina and British ultra-marathon specialist Eleanor Greenwood.
Having gone through the halfway stage with a narrow lead, Greenwood eventually fell back as Nurgalieva strengthened her decade-long grip on the race.
Greenwood held on to finish second in 6.08:24secs Kerry Koen was the first SA woman home, taking sixth position in 6.45:44secs, with three local athletes securing gold medals.