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Plea to Ramaphosa: SA marathon runners ‘cannot train at home’

A file photo of Desmond Mokgobu being cheered on by South Africans in London in 2017 during day 3 of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championship at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in England.
A file photo of Desmond Mokgobu being cheered on by South Africans in London in 2017 during day 3 of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championship at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in England.
Image: Roger Sedres/ImageSA/Gallo Images

Olympics-bound South African long-distance runner Desmond Mokgobu has appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to relax some of the coronavirus-enforced regulations and allow runners out on the streets to train.

With the lockdown regulations restricting athletes to proper training worldwide‚ the 31-year-old Tembisa-based road runner has admitted that exercising at his home has proved to be a massive challenge.

Mokgobu‚ a member of Team South Africa’s marathon team for the postponed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo‚ finds himself training within the confined spaces of his Kanana home.

President Ramaphosa first declared the national state of disaster on March 27. Ramaphosa has since announced an extension of the lockdown by a further two weeks until April 30.

“At least if the government can relax the restrictions a little bit so that we have a chance to train to keep our fitness shapes in check for when the situation returns to normal‚” Mokgobu appealed to the authorities.

“Some of us who stay in the townships are the worst affected‚” he said.

“Imagine If I am renting a small backroom and the space around the yard is too little for any endurance-ralated exercises that are needed as a long distance and marathon runner.”

Athletes have been deprived of proper and methodical preparation after all major qualifying competitions around the world were cancelled as countries went under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If they at least open one ground here in Tembisa for us to train that will be fantastic. They can give us permits‚” said Mokgobu.

“They must follow the same measures used by the taxi industry. If we don’t train hard we will gain weight‚” lamented Mokgobu.

Mokgobu’s trainer‚ Henrick Ramaala‚ echoed the sentiments of his athlete.

Ramaala said those who left the province to their respective homes before the lockdown kicked in may be better off than those left in Gauteng.

“The guys who have gone to the villages at least have better space to train. We are hoping that things get back to normal as soon as possible‚” Ramaala said.

Mokgobu‚ the soft-spoken runner from the village of Senwabarwana in Limpopo‚ trains under the watchful eye of four-time Olympian Ramaala at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.

The Entsika Athletics Club runner was preparing for the now Tokyo Olympic Games‚ which have been postponed to net year.

Ramaala‚ one of head coaches at Entsika‚ lamented the lockdown and said he was confident Mokgobu will represent his club and country well in Japan.

Ramaala applauded the club for supporting its athletes and had special praise for owner and businessman Zakhele Mkhize.

“Our elite athletes here are well looked after. They get training allowances and stipends and coaches are paid. Things like training kit‚ allowances for supplements and so on‚” said Ramaala.

Siya Mqambeli‚ who finished 10th at 2019 Comrades Marathon‚ is a full time employee at Entsika.

Other elite athletes in the employ of the club are Thando Ngcobo‚ Charles Mkhondo‚ Edwin Khonkhobe‚ Ernest Mookoo‚ Thabiso Bontsi and Skhumbuso Seme.

Other athletes running under the Entsika banner are Benjamin Skhosana‚ Msawenkosi Mthalane‚ Lindelani Zondi‚ Thobani Chagwe‚ Sanele Sibisi and Surprise Makofane.

Nobuhle Tshuma‚ Cacisile Sosibo and Nwabisa Mjoli are some of the elite athletes at the club.

Willie Mtolo and Michael Seme are the other two head coaches together with Ramaala.

“Our athletes don’t have to worry about basic things that allow them to train and compete in tournaments‚” said coach Ramaala.

“They can worry about prize monies they are losing out on due to the cancelled or postponed races but in terms of everything that an athlete needs‚ all our athletes are well looked after here. We have big dreams.”