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Winning Cape Town Marathon isn't everything for Mokoka

Stephen Mokoka of South Africa during the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Elite Athletes press conference at Cullinan Hotel on September 21, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Stephen Mokoka of South Africa during the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Elite Athletes press conference at Cullinan Hotel on September 21, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Stephen Mokoka achieved plenty at the Cape Town Marathon on Sunday‚ but he had his eyes on an even bigger prize.

Mokoka fought off a chasing pack of four Kenyans to win the 2018 edition of the race in 2:08:31 — or 10 seconds faster than Ethiopian Asefa Negewo’s record set two years ago.

He left his rivals for dead after 35 kilometres into the race to become the first South African to claim victory since the event was revived in 2014.

His feats added up to almost half-a-million rand in prizemoney: R265 000 for winning‚ R100 000 for breaking the record‚ and another R100 000 for being a South African winner.

Mokoka‚ who has been South Africa’s champion in the 1 500 metres‚ 5 000 metres — three times — 10 000 metres — eight times — and half-marathon‚ thus added the national marathon title to his trophy case. 

Southern Africa had still more to smile about in the shape of Namibia’s Helalia Johannes winning the women’s race in 2:29:28 — which made her the first woman to go under two-and-a-half hours in Cape Town and broke Kenyan Isabella’s record‚ which has stood since 2014.

Almost 22 000 runners started Africa’s only marathon that has the International Association of Athletics Federation’s gold label status.

But‚ for the new men’s champion‚ Sunday’s race was about ticking boxes towards a more important goal.

“We’re looking to build a great marathon team for the Tokyo Olympics‚” Mokoka said. “In London [in 2012] we were very inexperienced but watch South Africa in 2020.”

Mokoka rocked up in 49th place in London‚ six spots behind Lusapho April but better than Coolboy Ngamole‚ who failed to finish.

Four years later in Rio de Janeiro‚ April came 24th‚ Sibusiso Nzima was 97th and Lungile Gongqa didn’t make it to 35 kilometres.

Mokoka didn’t compete in the marathon in Rio but in the 10 000 metres‚ where he finished 18th.

All of which is a far cry from Josia Thugwane shocking the world by winning in Atlanta in 1996.

Main results:

Men: 1 Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) 2:08:31; 2 Albert Korir (Kenya) 2:09:02; 3 Philemon Kacherian (Kenya) 2:09:13; 4 Kipsang Kepkemoi (Kenya) 2:09:21; 5 Nicholas Rotich (Kenya) 2:12:29.

Women: 1 Helalia Johannes (Namibia) 2:29:28; 2 Failuna Matanga (Tanzania) 2:30:00; 3 Urge Sokoka Diro (Ethiopia) 2:30:31; 4 Ayantu Abdi (Ethiopia) 2:31:33; 5 Askale Adula (Ethiopia) 2:31:34.

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