Marathon runner Pardon Ndlovu will use the Chevron Houston Marathon in the United States on Sunday to position himself for qualification at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Ndhlovu (28) is one of the four local runners who have attained qualification times for the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro together with Wirimai Juwawo, Cuthbert Nyasango and Gilbert Mutandiro.
However, with Zimbabwe only allowed to field a maximum of three marathon runners, Ndhlovu will be eager to improve his current personal best time of two hours, 16 minutes 51 seconds (2:16:51) at the star-studded Houston Marathon.
Last month the International Association of Athletics Federations announced an amendment to the entry standards in 17 events for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with the qualifying time for the marathon being changed from two hours 17 minutes to two hours 19 minutes.
Ironically, Ndhlovu, who is based in Augusta, Georgia, attained his current qualifying time for the Rio Olympics at last year’s edition of the Houston Marathon where he finished in 10th position.
Ndhlovu, who has been tipped as one of the favourites for the title this year, said he was looking to improve his current time by shaving more than two minutes off his previous Houston marathon time to cement his place in the Zimbabwe team for the Olympics.
“I know that I am better than 2:16:51,” Ndhlovu told NewsDay Sport yesterday ahead of Sunday’s race. “I know the potential I have. I think right now, with the way training is going, 2:14 is within reach,” he said.
Augusta University cross country and track field head coach Adam Ward, who has been working with Ndhlovu to help him realise his goal of competing at the Olympics, said the Zimbabwean had the potential to not only qualify, but compete against the best in Rio.
“He wants to cement his ticket to Rio, but he also wants to prove to himself that he’s fast enough to be competitive,” Ward said.
“It’s not just about getting to Rio; it’s about being a viable competitor. He doesn’t want to be the guy who makes it, but isn’t considered a competitor. He has aspirations of something better and representing his country and those that support him. Going to Rio and doing a victory lap of 26,2 miles isn’t what he wants,” he said.
Ndhlovu, who began running at the age of 14, graduated from the University of North Carolina in May 2013 with a degree in international business and a minor in athletics coaching.
This capped off a successful college career in which he finished as one of the university’s most decorated student-athletes in any sport.
Ndhlovu is a four-time NCAA All-American – twice in cross country and track and field – and also has a slew of academic awards on his resumé, as well.
Besides pursuing his goal of qualifying for the Olympics, the Mabvuko-bred runner is currently studying for his MBA at Georgia Regents University, where he also works with the schools cross country team as assistant coach.