Mokoka pips strong field

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Stephen Mokoka surprised many people, including himself, by winning the Nedbank South African Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Mokoka, 23, won the event in a time of 62min:04sec to set the fastest South African half-marathon time of the year, beating a world-class lineup that included Hendrick Ramaala and Norman Dlomo.

Ramaala came second in 62:16, Boy Soke was third in 62:18, while Dlomo had to settle for sixth place in a time of 63:01 after falling off the pace.

As expected, Ramaala and Dlomo led for the first 15km, after which Mokoka surged ahead and never looked back.

At this stage, Tshamano Setone and Soke were also in the leading group.

Setone clocked 62:26 in finishing fourth, Amos Mahindi finished fifth (62:43), while Jeffrey Gwebu clocked 63:06 to finish seventh.

Mokoka, who is a World Student Games 10000m bronze medallist, described the win as one of the highlights of his athletics career.

"It's an incredible win, I did not expect it when you consider that we had some of the best runners in the world like Ramaala," said Mokoka, a student at the Vaal University of Technology.

Ramaala, who is one of South Africa's medal hopefuls at the Beijing Olympics next month, said he was satisfied with his performance.

In the women's section, Namibian Helaria Johannes easily won the race in 70:59 with Zintle Xiniwe taking the championship title in 73:02.

The Zimbabwe duo of Sharon Tavengwa (73:41) and Tabitha Tsatsa (74:15) were third and fourth, respectively.

Annerien van Schalkwyk was fifth in 76:00.