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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Back from injury, Gelant is determined to hold on to his Olympic spot.

SA 5000m record holder Elroy Gelant (13:04:88) says he will do everything in his power to retain his spot in the Olympic team. The man who represented the country in the 5000m at Rio 2016 has qualified for Tokyo 2020 in the marathon alongside Stephen Mokoka and Desmond Mokgobu. He ran his personal best of 2:10:31 at the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to book his place at the Games.

Gelant crossing the line after running a 2:10:31 personal best at the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo Credit: Elroy Gelant.

But he is not guaranteed a seat on the Team SA plane in July as he can be easily overtaken by other runners because his performance is the slowest of the trio. The SA 42km Olympic qualifying time is 2:11:30 and Murray & Roberts Running Club star Sibusiso Nzima has made no secret of the fact that he is gunning for Gelant in third place. Other Top Runners such as Collen Mulaudzi are also eyeing that spot. But the soft-spoken runner says he's not scared of a challenge.

"I want to pull up my socks and confirm my place in the team. My plan is to get a decent marathon in. Stephen and Desmond have run a better time than me. I am not safe with the third-best qualifying time. I am hoping that the Olympics will still take place. I am ready to push myself to the limit, but I still need to get a proper preparation marathon to secure a better qualifying time because I know that there are a few guys still hoping to qualify for the Games," he said.

After suffering a painful injury that forced him to pull out of the London Marathon last year, the Boxer Athletics Club runner is back in training. The 34-year-old Potchefstroom based marathoner pulled out of the elite-only race after 26km. He says he could not cope with his back pain and decided to call it quits. Although he was not happy with himself aborting the race, he believes he had to do it in order to prevent more damage. "I went into the race with back pains and told myself that I would be able to go through with the race. But it got severe, and it affected my right leg,” said a bitterly disappointed Gelant.

Gelant poses for a photo moments after winning the 2019 Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon. Photo Credit: Rhyn Swanepoel.

The human resources official at the University of North West has been back in training for just about two weeks since he sustained that injury last October. He did not train throughout the festive season, and admits that he has a lot of work ahead of him to regain his fitness. The ever-smiling runner said he has put his London nightmare behind him and is ready to tackle the New Year.

"I'm still busy with my rehab. I am strengthening all my weaknesses and muscles to make sure that the injury that happened last year won't happen again. I am doing some gym work and it is going okay. I am in my second week of training. I started last week with my base training, but I am taking it easy after a terrible year," he explains.

Gelant during a training session. Photo Credit: Aphiwe Tys.

The 2016 African Championships silver medalist in the 5 000m has to juggle running with a full-time job and says it's easier to do both in a quiet neighbourhood like Potch. "I am still working on a full-time basis at the North West University as a Human Resources practitioner. I have had to adapt to balance the sport and the profession. There is no traffic here in Potch and when I am done with work at 4.30pm it's five minutes to get to training. That helps a lot unlike if I stayed in Johannesburg or Pretoria working and then I would still need to travel through traffic. The environment suits me and allows me to balance my sport and work. I take a one hour nap during lunch break as part of my preparations. I have been working here for three years and it's working well," he said.

Gelant has learned to take things easy to arrive on race day feeling relaxed. "I will take things easy and to avoid overtraining myself and stay away from niggles and not get too excited." He adds that he will not over-train for the Olympics as that could end badly. "I am glad that my back has healed because it affected me at the London Marathon. I thought my career would be over. I thank everyone that played a part in my recovery here in Potch. I am now running freely and have no complaints. I hope this will be my year. I am ready and healthy," added Gelant.

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