'Anything is possible' says Precious Mashele as he makes Olympic debut
When Precious Mashele takes his mark for the heats of the men's 5000m today it will be as one of the less fancied runners in a field stacked with East Africans and other more well known performers. The only South African in the event will line up in heat 2 at 13:16 CAT alongside 5000m and 10 000m world record holder Joshua Cheptgei of Uganda and his compatriot Jacob Kiplimo who won bronze in the 10 000m on Friday. Mashele's personal best of 13:11.65 which he had to run in order for him to book his spot at #Tokyo2021, is over 30 seconds slower than Cheptegei's world record of 12:35.36. But the man who knows all about defying the odds, is not worried about the statistics. He believes anything is possible.
"Anything is possible," said the 30-year old during an interview with #TheTopRunner. "I'm so grateful for this opportunity, especially after Athletics South Africa pulled out all the stops and organised a last minute meet in order for me to qualify. Thats why I can't limit myself and I must give it my all," said the Boxer athlete who qualified for his maiden Olympics in dramatic fashion on the very day that the qualification window closed.
The Limpopo-born runner had initially planned to qualify for the marathon after being invited to run the NN Mission Hamburg Marathon on 11 April in Germany. But when he was unable to travel because he couldn't get a VISA, Mashele and his coach Hendrik Ramaala restrategized and decided that he should try and qualify for the 5000m instead.
"I remember telling the coach that it would be simple to hit the qualifying mark in the 5000m. What gave me confidence is that I was racing week in and week out, but I never got tired and was always able to return to training immediately and without any pain. It showed me that all I would need was good pacemaking," explained the reigning SA 5000m and half marathon champion. But when he missed the qualification mark by just 5 seconds with less than a month to go before the window closed, Mashele was written off.
That Mashele kept on going is testament to the motivation and encouragement he received from his coach Ramaala who is himself a four-time Olympian and winner of the 2004 New York Marathon. And he is not content with merely gracing the biggest sporting stage in the world. The Zoo Lake Runner is not ruling out the possibility of ending up on the podium. "I want to get to the final. I will give it everything I have. The aim is a top 5 finish, but if a medal is possible I will go for it. Anything is possible," he concluded.