Xiniwe forced to pull out of World Champs

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

Top Cape Town runner Zintle Xiniwe has pulled out of the South African team that leaves for Brazil tomorrow to compete in Sunday's IAAF World Road Running Championships, due to ill health.

It is a crushing blow for Xiniwe, who had given up the chance to win the Spar Women's 10km Challenge series to run in Brazil.

Xiniwe had been at the top of the Grand Prix table with 73 points and well on her way to claiming the R50000 prize money in this series, but the championship in Brazil clashed with Sunday's final leg in Johannesburg.

"I am naturally disappointed that I will not take part in both these races. I have worked really hard, and am heartbroken to be sidelined now," Xiniwe said.

Molatelo Malehopo, ASA general manager, confirmed Xiniwe's withdrawal from the team, and said the association was awaiting the athlete's medical records.

With Xiniwe missing the series is now wide open. Close behind her is Poppy Mlambo who, with 69 points, stands a good chance of being crowned the Grand Prix champion.

But she will have to work hard, with veteran Michelle Bartman and Gloria Baeba joint third on 65 points and sniping at her heels.

Another strong contender is Yvette van Blerk, who won the Pretoria leg of this series.

Mlambo said she was not taking anything for granted and was keen to end this year on a high note.

"This year has been really tough for me, and I have had to contend with my feet constantly bleeding. The doctors have found nothing wrong, but when it came to this series, I have worked hard, and made sure that I collected points in almost all the races," Mlambo said.

Mlambo and Xiniwe were among the women who caused a stir in Pretoria, after they competed at the South African Championships in the morning in Stellenbosch, jumped on a plane and then raced at the Spar race in Pretoria the same afternoon.