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Road running star says a bio-bubble idea would not work for the sport

Too risky to re-open athletics season, Mokoka warns

Stephen Mokoka.
Stephen Mokoka.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Road running sensation Stephen Mokoka says Athletics SA (ASA) should not rush to re-open the season.

The four-time Shanghai Marathon winner said athletics should not be compared with netball, rugby and football.

Fresh from breaking the SA half-marathon national record at the IAAF world half-marathon championships in Gdynia, Poland, two weeks ago, Mokoka said a bio-bubble idea for athletics was a recipe for disaster.

The 35-year-old Olympic-bound runner clocked 59:36 to smash the national record, taking 15 seconds off the previous record that he set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last year.

Mokoka finished the race in seventh place to become the highest placed South African in his first competitive race in six months.

ASA agreed to allow athletes to train and compete again after six months of inactivity due to Covid-19. But Mokoka said it is not such a good idea.

“ASA should not rush to re-open the season for the sake of it. Athletics will not work in a bio-bubble. There are too many of us, to think about it. It will not work as we do not train in the same place and come from different parts of the country. I am hungry to run, but it is not practical. I cannot risk my life because I want to get back on track. Yes, athletics is a non-contact sport, but that does not mean that we must compare it with other sporting codes," said Mokoka.

The former Sanlam Cape Town marathon winner said they assembled in camp five days before the world champs race in Poland. “Organisers spent a lot of money on a race that lasted for just two hours. They booked us in a five-star hotel, did tests, and never left the hotel. The hotel was open for athletes and managers only. Imagine how much it would cost ASA to do that locally. It could cost them millions.”

Mokoka is married to legendary runner Zet Sinqe’s daughter Zintle, and they have a two-year-old son, Reabetswe. “I spend a lot of time with my son,” he said.

The Rio 2016 Olympian did not get the R20,000 relief fund money from sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, but he receives a monthly stipend from his running club Boxer. “I’ve started my preparations for the 42.2km Olympic marathon in Tokyo, Japan, 2021. It’s all about mindset,” added Mokoka.

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