Mokoka's a champ!
STEPHEN Mokoka shrugged off a stiff coastal breeze to crack the third-quickest 10,000m time by a South African as he claimed first place at the SA championships in Port Elizabeth on Friday
Mokoka, whose 27min 40.73sec is an Olympic qualifying time, is also the fastest of five SA men to have clocked qualifying times for the marathon.
On Friday Mokoka had to run on his own for most of the second half of this race after his training partner, Gladwin Mzazi, faded midway.
“We kept alternating the pace. But when he fell back I pushed on,” said Mokoka, who had been worried when greeted by a gale in the windy city on Thursday.
“We were panicking yesterday, but today it was better. The wind was a bit strong on the home straight, so on the back straight I went a bit faster.”
Mokoka’s time places him third overall behind Hendrick Ramaala (27:29.94) and Xolile Yawa (27:39.65).
He said he and his coach had yet to decide on which event to focus on, but added: “I think the marathon is better.”
In the 10,000m he is still way off the pace of the world’s best. But while he is competing in track events here, SA’s other top marathon runners are preparing to go overseas to improve their 42km times.
Ramaala, who has competed at four Olympics, is looking to get into the top three – for all athletics events at the Games, nations can enter no more than three competitors.
The deadline to qualify for the marathon is the end of this month, so Mokoka could be pushed out of Olympic contention.
“He and his coach sat with me earlier this week,” said Athletics SA CEO Frik Vermaak, saying he had explained that they needed to focus on one event. “They’re confident that they know what they’re doing.”
Mokoka will run in the 5,000m on Saturday. “It’s more than 24 hours away. I still have time, I hope I’m recovered by then.”