Sister Van Zyl saves South Africa blushes

Winner of the 2019 Soweto Marathon women's section, Irvette van Zyl, at the finishing line at FNB Stadium, yesterday.
Winner of the 2019 Soweto Marathon women's section, Irvette van Zyl, at the finishing line at FNB Stadium, yesterday.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

With local male athletes failing to make the podium at yesterday's Old Mutual Soweto Marathon, veteran long-distance ace Irvette van Zyl gave South Africans something to smile about, clinching the women's 42km race.

It was the same old story in the males' category as East Africans stretched their dominance over SA athletes.

Ethiopian Dabeko Dasa (Nedbank Running Club), who was participating in The People's Race for the first time, clocked 2:18:35 to win the race, walking away with R250,000.

Van Zyl stormed to victory, recording the time of 2:34:01 to lift the gloom over SA athletes at The People's Race that was in its 26th year.

It was the 32-year-old's third Soweto Marathon success in succession.

Winner of the 2019 Soweto Marathon, Ethiopian Dabeko Dasa.
Winner of the 2019 Soweto Marathon, Ethiopian Dabeko Dasa.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Running in colours of Hollywood Bets Athletics, Ntsindiso Mphakathi, who claimed position eight, was the first SA home and the only local man in the top 10. Michael Mazibuko was the last local male to win this race in 2011.

On the other hand, Van Zyl didn't just win the women's segment, she was also the only SA female in the top 10. The Nedbank Running Club gem missed her last year's record by 16 seconds, having clocked 2:33:43 last year.

Having endured poor form due to injuries, Van Zyl cut a surprised figure. The Sandton-born, Johannesburg, runner, who's married to Louis van Zyl - a retired 400m-hurdles specialist - was nevertheless happy to win.

"I cannot lie, I wasn't really expecting to win my third Soweto Marathon in a row, it's amazing," said Van Zyl.

"The reason I am emotional is that in July I had a surgery on a problem that had been troubling me for seven years, so I came into the race with little hopes of winning."

Louis van Zyl also shared some congratulatory words to his victorious wife: "I am very proud of Irvette, she's a great person and hardworking.

"I am glad that she's overcome injuries, just hoping for the best."

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