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SA stars head east

By Mark Etheridge

Our athletes are going to be up against it as they line up for Saturday’s IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Nanning, China.

Team SA has a squad of 10 (five men, five women) to do battle against the globe’s quickest athletes over the 21.1 kilometre distance. The total line-up is made up of 69 men and 54 women runners.

Champions from Birmingham, England last year were Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea who is out to nail a fifth successive title after running 59min 35sec last year and Mary Jepkosgei Keitany of Kenya who ran 66:36. Keitany is not part of the Kenyan team on this occasion as she’s running the New York Marathon next month.

Best South African finishers last year were Stephen Mokoka, eighth in 61:36 and Rene Kalmer who ended 15th with a personal best 70:37 but neither are in the line-up for China.

Doing duty for South Africa are: Lungisa Mdedelwa, Zolani Ntongana, Subisio Nzima, Samuel Segoaba and Boy Soke for the mens’ race while Thozama April, Louisa Leballo, Mpho Mabuza, Irvette van Blerk and Zintle Xiniwe fly the flag in the women’s race.

Quickest of the men this season is Nzima who has run a personal best 62:10 while of the women Van Blerk is the form runner, the 23-year old having cleaned up at the Spar women’s 10km series as well as annexing the national 10km and half-marathon titles, the last with a personal best of 71:09.

In the men’s line-up, entry lists show that nine men have run quicker than Nzima this season, including the entire Kenyan team who have all dipped under the one-hour barrier. Thirteen of her competitors boast quicker times this season than Van Blerk.

Weather conditions for the race are expected to feature temperatures of between 20-25 degrees Celcius with high humidity as the field battle it out for the individual winners’ cheques of US$30,000 and $15,000 for the first team.