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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Gerda Steyn to donate record-breaking Comrades winnings to Phantane AC development initiatives

South African running star Gerda Steyn proved too many why she is the country's leading female long-distance athlete when she set a new Comrades Down Run record of 5:44:54 yesterday. Steyn who has been in great form shattered the 34-year-old record of 5:54:43 which had been set by the legendary Frith van Der Merwe in 1989. Adele Broodryk improved on last year's third place finish when she claimed second spot in in 5:56:26 as for two women dipped under six hours for the first time in Comrades history. Carla Molinaro took third (6:00:23) in the 87,7km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

Steyn who belongs to Phantane AC says she will use donate some of her Comrades winnings to the club's development initiatives. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Speaking to a room packed with media during the post-race press conference, the woman who broke six hours during the 2019 Up Run says it is a privilege to hold both these records and she will will cherish these moments for the rest of her life. "I woke up feeling good. I have been dreaming about it. The weather conditions were nice for the running. I didn't want to speak about the record earlier because the Comrades Marathon is very long. To be able to finally break it it feels good. It's a nice feeling," said the Adidas ambassador.

The 33-year-old received a huge round of applause when she announced that she is going to donate a portion of the R1,2 million in prize money she won yesterday to her club Phantane Athletics Club's athletics development initiatives. Since its inception, Phantane which is headed by Mdu Khumalo has played a crucial role in unearthing new talent.

Phantane AC runners training in Ndwendwe in rural KZN during their annual December training camp. Photo Credit: Phantane AC.

"I actually discussed that with my husband earlier before the race that if I win then I would donate," she highlighted. "When I joined the club earlier this year, not too many people knew about it especially in the long distance running. I needed to give them exposure because they have been doing an incredible job in finding the new talent. They go all out in the rural areas and schools in order to discover upcoming athletes. That excellent job, they are doing must keep moving and must inspire more ordinary people. So yes, I'm going to give a portion of the money to development of the club."

The 96th edition of the world oldest ultra marathon was record-breaking not just in the women's but also in the men's race. In the men's race, Tete Dijana successfully defended his title with a well-timed and composed run of 5:13:58 to better the 5:18:19 Down Run that had belonged to David Gatebe since 2016. Piet Wiersma from The Netherlands took a thrilling second place as he sprinted to the finish line just three seconds behind Dijana, while 2019 champion Edward Mothibi settled for the third spot to earn his fourth consecutive Comrades gold medal.

Tete Dijana became the first man to successfully defend a Comrades Marathon title since Stephen Muzhingi in 2011. Photo Credit: Nedbank Running Club.

It is a rare occassion when both the men's and women's records fall on the same day at The Ultimate Human Race. The last time that happened was in 1988 when Bruce Fordyce won the Up Run in 5:27:42 and van der Merwe won in 6:32:56. But you have to go back to 1984 to for the last time that both of the Comrades Down Run records were broken. On that day Fordyce was the first man home in 5:27:18, while Lindsay Weight won the women's race in 6:46:35.

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