NHLAPO FIT FOR RETURN TO GLORY

VETERAN ultra distance runner Fusi Nhlapo is relishing the prospect of once again achieving Comrades Marathon glory - this time to celebrate South Africa's historic hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

VETERAN ultra distance runner Fusi Nhlapo is relishing the prospect of once again achieving Comrades Marathon glory - this time to celebrate South Africa's historic hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

Nhlapo, who won this Ultimate Human Race event back in 2003, is one of more than 20000 runners who will line up for the 85th edition of the event in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday morning.

"The Comrades Marathon is the biggest international event taking place in South Africa before the World Cup, so I want to be part of this history by winning it," Nhlapo said yesterday.

Nhlapo, who runs in the colours of Mr Price Athletics, will be competing in his ninth Comrades Marathon. He has always finished well inside the top 10.

"As usual, I was in the mountains of QwaQwa where I spent six weeks for my preparations. The focus was more on doing a lot of mileage.

"I was doing an average of 230km a week and preparations went accordingly. I was struggling a bit with an Achilles tendon injury at the beginning of the year and I hope it won't trouble me on Sunday.

"There is no way I won't win it if I'm in the right frame of mind," said Nhlapo, who is a former Two Oceans Marathon champion.

He expects stiff opposition from teammate Charles Tjiane, who finished second and was the first South African to cross the line last year. Nhlapo was third overall.

"Charles is a great runner, but there are many other quality athletes who will be competing on Sunday. I'm ready for all of them.

"There is also the American star Josh Cox, who I have been told has been doing well in his country in ultra marathons and I will also keep an eye on him."

Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi, the defending champion, will be out to make it two in a row.

Other runners to watch include Lucas Nonyana, Andrew Kelehe and Josiah Thugwane.

The Nurgalieva twins - Olesya and Elena - are expected to maintain their dominance of the women's section of the famed event.

South Africans will hope that the likes of Farwa Mentoor and Pauline Phaho will have enough poise to break the monopoly of the Nurgalievas in the women's section.

The race starts at Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 5.30am and ends at Durban's Kingsmead Stadium.

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