Runner wants to motivate fellow athletes

Lebo Phalula to shun Tokyo Olympics

Lebo Phalula.
Lebo Phalula.
Image: Mark Sampson

As strange as it may seem, SA’s celebrated  runner Lebo Phalula does not want to go back to the Olympic Games. Phalula is happy to be running again and since Athletics SA (ASA) opened the athletics season last month, she has not missed a single event.

The Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) hosted five league meetings since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and a provincial championship where some of the big-name athletes took part at the Boksburg Stadium at the weekend.

Phalula, 37, set the pace at the CGA provincial championship, winning the women’s 5000m race in 17:13:38. Cian Oldknow secured second place in 17:14:38, while Cacisile Sosibo took third place in 17:39:05. Phalula has now set her sights on the SA Senior Track and Field Championship at Pilditch, Pretoria, next month.

“I have been there and done that and I am not going back to the Olympics. I have been praying for the sport to open up so that we can run again. Even if I qualify for the Olympics in the 5000m, I will not go. I just want to run and motivate other runners around me.

"The CGA race was great, but the competition was not that strong. I expect a competitive 5000m race at the SA champs. If I can win that, I will be happy with my season,” said Phalula, who went to the last Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

Phalula finished in 63rd place in the marathon, clocking 2:41:46 in Brazil five years ago. She wanted to run the 10 000m at the SA championships, but her husband and fellow athlete Gladwin Mzazi wants them to prepare for the 5000m. Phalula will run at the CGA 21km championship on April 11 and at the SA half-marathon in Port Elizabeth on May 1.

“We are preparing to win the SA champs, CGA 21, and the SA champs half-marathon. I feel good and in top shape. Well done to CGA for putting together interesting league meetings and the provincial championships. They prepared us for the national showdown,” said Phalula.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mphahlele reigned supreme in the men’s 5000m in his second race of the year to announce his comeback on the track. The middle-distance runner clocked 14:14:05 to beat the likes of Gladwin Mzazi (14:15:10), Olympic-bound Desmond Mokgobu (14:16.22), Kabelo Seboko (14:34.20), Kabelo Melamu (14:40.01), and David Manja (14:43.29) in a thrilling race.

Botswana superstar Isaac Makwala took the men’s 200m, clocking 20.83.

Makwala is the Commonwealth Games multi-medalist, Olympian, and a celebrated athlete.

Corly Classen leaped 5.72m to finish ahead of prominent long jumper Zinzi Xulu (5.71m) in the women's long jump final.    

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