Hendrik Ramaala ran his way into South African Olympic folklore on Friday when he became the first SA sportsman to qualify for a fifth Olympic Games, writes Mark Etheridge.
On the brink of his 40th birthday next Thursday, Ramaala ran a time of 2hr 12min 12sec to end 19th in the Dubai Marathon.
That comfortably bettered the IAAF A standard of 2hr 15min (B standard is 2:18).
In qualifying for a record fifth Olympics, Ramaala now moves ahead of swimmer Ryk Neethling who wore the green and gold at four Olympic Games.
Ramaala’s first Olympics were in Atlanta back in 1996 where he failed to make the final of the men’s 10,000 metre track event.
At the next Olympics in Sydney, four years down the line he ended 12th in the marathon, after only having moved up to the standard marathon distance of 42.2 kilometres six months prior to that.
His last two Olympic experiences weren’t too much to write home about as he dropped out of the marathon in Athens and at the last Olympics in Beijing he faded to 44th place.
However he still remains the second quickest SA marathoner of all time, his 2:06:55 behind Gert Thys’ 2:06:33 run in Japan.
Athletics South Africa chairman James Evans had high praise for Ramaala. “When one considers that he hasn’t been training at full capacity for something like 18 months while he was active as a board member at ASA is quite astounding.”
Despite having run the qualifying time, it’s by no means a given that Ramaala will make the cut as three other athletes, Lusapho April, Coolboy Ngamole and Stephen Mkoko, have run quicker times than him during the qualifying period.
Friday’s winner was Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero in a quick 2:04:23. All of the top 10 finishers were quicker than 2:07, with 10th placed Yemane Adhane of Ethiopia running 2:06:29.
Kenya’s Jonathan Maiyo, fourth, was the only non-Ethiopian in the top 10.
Women’s winner was, another Ethiopian, Aselefech Mergia in 2:19:31 in a race again dominated by Ethiopians with six in the top 10.