Comrades winner Edward Mothibi: ‘I’m disappointed but I understand’

Comrades Marathon winner Edward Mothibi celebrates with the trophy after winning the men's race for the first time on June 9 2019.
Comrades Marathon winner Edward Mothibi celebrates with the trophy after winning the men's race for the first time on June 9 2019.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Last year’s winner Edward Mothibi was among the long distance running stars left downhearted as the Comarades Marathon was cancelled for the first time since World War II due to Covid-19.

The cancellation of the world’s oldest ultra-marathon on Thursday and cessation of the Two Oceans last month is another nail in the coffin for the events of Athletics South Africa (ASA)‚ as the coronavirus pandemic continues to floor sporting activities worldwide.

“Yes‚ I’m disappointed but I understand because it is for the safety and health of everybody‚” Mothibi‚ who last year crossed the line in 5:31:33 in just his second attempt ahead of 2018 winner Bongmusa Mthembu‚ told TimesLIVE.

The endurance race was set for June 14 before the more-than-a century old event succumbed to the inevitable on Thursday.

Mothibi spoke to SowetanLIVE during lunch break at Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg‚ where he draws a monthly salary as a permanent clerk in the instrumentation engineering department.

The father of three from the rural village of Magoegoe in Mahikeng said he had sympathy for other runners who are not guaranteed of a monthly income.

“I don’t think things will be the same this year‚” said Mothibi‚ who thanked Nedbank Running Club‚ Biogen‚ FutureLife‚ Nike and Bavaria for their backing.

The soft-spoke Mothibi‚ who finished fourth in 2018‚ weighed in on the raging debate of the reopening of schools.

“It is very risky‚” said the 36-year-old. “I’m still young myself‚ which means I have very young kids. I think for them to return back to school is very dangerous.

“Kids are not like us and it will be very difficult for them to follow guidelines even with the help of teachers.”

Mothibi said he applied for the government Covid-19 relief fund through his running club but said he wishes the money could be directed to athletes who need it more than him.

Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana said the decision to cancel the Contrades had not been taken lightly while chair of the body that organises the race Cheryl Winn said: “It is incumbent upon us to prioritise the health‚ safety and well-being of our athletes.”

Eastern Cape-born‚ Centurion-based Siya Mqambeli finished 10th last year with a best of 5:52 and counted himself among favourites for 47th down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

“I was aiming very high this year. I spent a lot of time analysing my performance from last year and I had identified areas where I could improve on in order to finish better than last year‚” said the athlete from Mount Frere‚ who runs under the Entsika Athletics Club banner.

“It’s unfortunate but there is nothing we can do. This Covid-19 is not only affecting us as athletes or sports people‚ it is affecting every sector of the economy.”

Mqambeli is employed by Entsika Consulting on a full time basis as an events administrator at their Centurion office and he is grateful to the company.

“I can say athletes at our club are in good hands and even though the Covid-19 has hit hard here at Entsika we have been well taken care of. We receive stipends and training allowances and things like that‚” he said.

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