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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'He inspires me' - Motlagale dedicates World Champs Marathon performance to his father

As the Athletics World Championships draw to a close and the search for South Africa's first medal continues, all eyes will be on the men's marathon team who will be in action on Sunday 27 August. And after Wayde van Niekerk failed to finish on the podium Athletics South Africa (ASA) will be hoping that Mzansi's Marathon men can do the unexpected and win a medal which Team SA couldn't obtain at Doha 2019 and Oregon 2022. One of the athletes selected, Tumelo Motlagale, has different intentions and ambitions. Motlagale believes that this race is about improvement so he can start getting invitations to run against the big dogs at Big City Marathons in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Motlagale on his way to a 2:20 52nd place finish in the men's marathon at the 2022 world Championships. He wants to improve on that performance in Budapest. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"I'm excited that I'm going to represent my country on the global stage. It is a feeling you can't take away and a moment that will cherish forever in my life," said an elated Motlagale. "My aim is to finish inside the top eight overall. I believe if I can put in a strong performance would be enough for me to get an invitation to one of the major marathons around the world. I dream of running New York Marathon because it got a tough and testing route which is something I like most," he told #TheTopRunner.

Now 36 years old, some will question whether he still has what it takes to fulfil his dream. But to write him off would be a big mistake. In 2016, he suffered a career-threatening knee injury which sidelined him for two years. He underwent an operation to remove a blood clot on his right knee which doctors predicted can cause cancer at a later stage. He made a strong return to action and at the beginning of 2022, he clocked a personal best 2:11:15 at the Durban International Marathon to book his ticket to the World Championships in Oregon. Although he could only manage 2:20:21 in Eugene, the man from Zeerust says it was a valuable experience and things this will be different in Budapest.

Motlagale on his way to a podium finish and a personal best at the 2022 Durban International Marathon which doubled as the ASA Marathon Championships. Photo Credit: ASA Media.

"I think last year I was too excited to represent the country at the World Championships for the first time. That got to my head big time," he explained. "Another thing, it was the first time that I lined up with these big-name athletes who I respect so much. I also didn't know what to expect there on race day. But I learned some valuable lessons from that experience which I think would come into play now. Plus the training has been good as I didn't do many races this year. So I feel that this year I'm ready to do well."

Motlagale credits all his latest accomplishments to his father, Adam, who coaches him. As a former runner, Adam represented the country in the 1997 World Championship in Athens, Greece. Motlagale wants to do it for his father.

"He inspires me in life. He is a man that never looks down on me. When I got injured he took me in to stay with him. The way we communicate makes everything easy between us. He always tells me not to do too many races as this will impact my performance and cut my career short. Plus he understands the struggles and challenges the athletes face since he was an athlete back then. Without him, I don't know if I would have managed to overcome all these challenges from the past," said the Boxer Athletic Club top runner.

Motlagale and Melikhaya Frans at Oregon 2022. The pair along with Simon Sibeko will represent South Africa again in Budapest on Sunday 27 August. Photo Credit: Tumelo Motlagale.

Apart from wanting to do it for his father, Motlagale is also motivated to perform in Hungary because it is an excellent opportunity to secure Olympic qualification."I still want to represent the country at the Olympics in France next year. So I need to clock 2:08:10 to achieve that goal. It is possible to can get a qualification standard in the World Champs because the competition is tough there. So these championships are important to me for many reasons and can change my life big time."

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