From Blessed Katiyo in JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
TRUE to his word, Zimbabwean road race king Stephen Muzhingi is now the undisputed champion of South Africa’s most prestigious road race — the Comrades Marathon. “Ndine confidence mukoma, I don’t doubt myself. I am going to win despite whatever people are saying. It’s not a matter of ‘if’. Just wait and see . . . Hapana kana achandinetsa pavese vachamhanya, kana vaifunga kuti ndapera haa varikurota,” were Muzhingi’s words in an exclusive interview with H-Metro last week.
His wife Erina — proudly drapped in a Zimbabwean flag — and son Methembe were once again at the finish line with a rose in hand to give to “daddy”. Erina was all smiles as she kissed and hugged the Chivhu-born runner at the finish line.
Muzhingi physically and mentally outwitted a field of over 19 000 athletes coming from all across the globe to win the prestigious 89.96km marathon in a comfortable time of 5hrs:32:47secs. He shattered yet another record by being the first-ever man to win the race in three consecutive years. He has monopolized the top position for the past three years and deserves to keep the trophy.
For his exploits the 34-year-old earned himself a cool R250 000. Muzhingi’s coach Cliff Chinasamy was over the moon. “This is an example that hard work pays off. Our secret to success was our training schedule, Stephen worked very hard and I am glad he came out tops,” said Chinasamy. The athlete was, however, unavailable for comment as the manager “couldn’t locate him” at the time of going to press.
Little-known Zimbabwean runner Point Chaza was the marathon’s pacesetter at the half way mark in 2hrs:36mins:19sec. It was a record pace for the race but Chaza could not last long. He could not even make it into the top 10. He was overtaken by Muzhingi and South Africa’s Fani Matshipa at the 53km mark. Matshipa was the only one to have offered some kind of resistance to Muzhingi but was shown a clean pair of heels as the Zimbabwean started streaking away with over 18km still to go.
All the television cameras were on Muzhingi from then on and it was him all the way to the finish point.
Matshipa came second in 5hrs:34:30secs becoming the first South African home. Another Zimbabwean athlete Chasara Masiyatsva gave a good account of himself and finished a credible sixth overall. Swede Jonas Buud was the only athlete outside the continent to finish in the top 10.
The race started off in port city of Durban and ended at Midlands Cricket Oval in Pietermaritzburg. Thousands of locals lined up the streets to cheer on the runners on a warm morning. Some chose to join the champion in the last 5km running on the side of the tarmac. Muzhingi was the first-ever man to win back-to-back Comrades gold medals in 2009 and 2010 in the race’s 84-year-old history. In the women’s race, Russian twins Elena Nurgalieva was home first in a time of 6hrs:24mins.11secs while Olesya Nurgalieva was home second.
Top 10 men’s results:
1 Stephen Muzhingi (ZIM) 5:32.45
2 Fanie Matshipa (RSA) 5:34.29
3 Claude Moshiywa (RSA) 5:42.05
4 Jonas Buud (SWE) 5:42.44
5 Gift Kelehe (RSA) 5:43.59
6 Chasara Masiyatsva (ZIM) 5:44.33
7 Ludwick Mamobolo (RSA) 5:50.17
8 Charles Tjiane (RSA) 5:50.46
9 Brian Zondi (RSA), 5:51.08
10 Mncedisi Mkhize (RSA) 5:51.17