Given recent form and results, it was always on the cards that a foreigner would scoop the R60,000 jackpot for winning the men’s race at the Nedbank Johannesburg Marathon. And so it proved, but only after a chain of events that made a mockery of the event.
Athletics South Africa, after a series of meetings and protests, ruled that Toyota athletes Nathaniel Lebopo and Lebenya Nkoka (both of Lesotho) were to be re-instated as first and second across the line, with the Ugandan Daniel Cheyegun third. For a long time this had been in doubt after Lebopo ÔÇ£wonÔÇØ in 2hr 18min 32sec, followed by Nkoka 13 seconds behind and Cheyegun third in 2:18:56. The trio had pulled away from the field at the 36km mark and were never likely to be challenged.
So, what was the problem? Their team manager, looking for extra ambush marketing, broke IAAF rules when he handed each one of them a branded flag as they approached the finish. The referees rightly ruled that this gesture broke IAAF rules and disqualified them. The athletes appealed, but a jury upheld the original decision. That’s where Athletics SA stepped in and ensured the original ÔÇ£resultÔÇØ stood, saving the first three runners some R95,000 in earnings.
Fourth-placed Tisetso Ramokheseng (Lesotho, 2:20:03) must have been thinking he had a real shot at leap-frogging the top three but he eventually settled for fourth. Charkes Tjiane was rthe first South African home, in fifth, in 2:20:07.
A foreigner also took the women’s race, with Zimbabwe’s Sharon Tavengwa defying an 1th hour entrance following a flight from Kenya to Harare and then a road trip to Johannesburg. ÔÇ£If you are an athlete you need to be mentally tough as well as fit. For me, this was just a normal journey, Tavenga said after winning in a slow 2:47:13, albeit on a tough course. The first South African was third-placed Catherine Skosana in 2:56:59.
Four-times Olympian, Hendrik Ramaala, warmed up for April’s London Marathon, by breezing to victory in the 10km race in 29:51. Only two South Africans have appeared in four Olympiads, Ramaala and swimmer Ryk Neethling.
ÔÇ£Man this course was tough, I have never run this race before, the steep uphills and downhills certainly tested the legs but I am happy with my shape at the moment,ÔÇØ Ramaala said.