Foreigners outrun locals again

ON THE MARK: Nathaniek Lebopo wins the Nedbank Johannesburg Marathon. 22/03/2009. Pic. Barry Aldworth. © Backpagepix.
ON THE MARK: Nathaniek Lebopo wins the Nedbank Johannesburg Marathon. 22/03/2009. Pic. Barry Aldworth. © Backpagepix.

The big bucks on offer at the Nedbank Johannesburg Marathon on Sunday was always going to attract the top guns, but the outcome could have been scripted by Alfred Hitchcock himself when the twist in the tail surprised even the participants.

From as early as the 36km mark, eventual winner, Nathaniel Lebopo and his Toyota teammate Lebenya Nkoka from Lesotho, together with Ugandan Daniel Cheyegun, dictated proceeding at the front of the field and the winner could only come from one of these three foreigners.

According to the script, they crossed the line in that order, with Lebopo first in 2 hours 18 minutes, 32 seconds, just missing the IAAF World Championships qualifying time by 32 seconds.

Their team manager, overjoyed at his charges dominance, handed each one a flag, which they duly carried across the line.

Then the dirt hit the fan blades.

The referees adjudged that this gesture contravened the IAAF advertising ruling and three of his runners were disqualified.

He promptly appealed the ruling, which was upheld by the jury. So his quick bit of ambush marketing cost his athletes a collective R 95000.

Then Athletics South Africa got involved, quite rightly so as the athletes would be the ones to suffer, not their sponsors, and they returned the placing to the original order, to everyone's relief.

The women's race also had more than it's fair share of drama.

Zimbabwean winner Sharon Tavengwa (Temp) was a last-minute entrant after waiting days for a connecting flight from her Kenyan training base to Harare.

She then had to travel by road to Johannesburg, arriving late in the day from the two-day epic.

A weaker athlete might have cracked but not this ever-happy 25-year-old. "If you are an athlete you need to be mentally tough as well as fit. For me, this was just a normal journey."

She finished in a fair time of 2:47:13 considering the tough nature of the course. She was followed by fellow country women, Samukeliso Moyo (2:50:30) and the first local girl Catherine Skosana (Transnet) who stopped the clocks on 2:56:59.

With the London Marathon next month, Hendrick Ramaala (Nedbank) used the 10 kilometre as a tough test and he finished bang on schedule, clocking 29:51.

"Man, this course was tough. I have never run this race before, the steep uphills and downhills certainly tested the legs but I am happy with my shape at the moment," he said.

The women's 10km race also went south to Lesotho when Mamarollo Tjoka (GS) claimed the gold in 35:20. - Sapa