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  • Mosibodi Whitehead

Cross Country key to Cian Oldknow's PB success

The dearth of world class female middle runners athletes has been cause for serious concern in South African athletics over the last decade. Although American-based Dominique Scott donned the green and gold when she raced the 5 000m and 10 000m at #Tokyo2021, with the exception of Caster Semenya, Rene Kalmer was the last locally trained woman to represent the country on the track at an Olympics when she ran the 1500m in Beijing at the 2008 Games. Thankfully there seems to be a groundswell of promising young women and Cian Oldknow is one of them.


Oldknow breasts the tape to win the Senior Womens 4km South African cross-country title on Saturday 18 September 2021, only a week after her 10km personal best at the Spar ladies 10km in Durban. Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

"I'm hoping to have a really good track season. I'm looking at doing the 5k and 10k at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships," she told #TheTopRunner shortly after setting a new 5 000m personal best of 16:54.25 during a Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) Open Meet at the Boksburg Stadium last week. This new mark set at over 1500m above sea level didn't surprise anyone who saw Cian set twelve official personal bests in 2021 on the track and road over a range of distances from 1500m all the way to the half marathon in 2021.


Probably the most impressive of all those new personal records was a sub 34 minute clocking over 10km. After finishing in fifth place overall in her debut SPAR GRAND PRIX 10km series, Oldknow clocked another PB at the Absa DURBAN 10K CITYRUN which doubled as the SA 10km Championships where her 33:48 earned her sixth position. "When we started our coaching arrangement in February, Cian's 10km personal best time was 37:25 and she was carrying an injury," her coach George Bradley revealed.


Oldknow celebrates after setting a new 5km altitude PB to win the CGA Open Meet 5000m. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

The 25-year old's rehabilitation and subsequent dramatic improvement, is based on her coach's insistence on incorporating cross country in her training. "Smart coaching also dictates that it is still an essential element in building a great middle/long distance athlete. Cross-country, especially when not done on fast golf courses, assists greatly in developing the strength endurance component element that is so essential," said Bradley.


It therefore comes as little surprise to hear the Murray and Roberts Running Club athlete say that cross country will once again be the bedrock of her 2022 season. "I've been having a really great season last year and I set personal bests throughout the season. I'm hoping to have a really good cross country season and hopefully qualify for the World Half Marathon Champs in November," she concluded.

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