'Hong Kong was preparation for Paris' - Mokoka shares Olympic ambitions
By the start of this year's Olympics games in the French capital, Paris, South African road running sensation Stephen Mokoka will be 39 years of age. Far from throwing in the towel, Mokoka is still willing to run faster at what will be his fourth Olympics and third over the marathon distance. The tenacious runner has already booked a golden ticket after clocking 2:06:42 at last year's Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan. During that incredible run, he was nine seconds shy of breaking the long-standing national record of 2:06:33 which was set by Gert Thys back in 1999.
In preparation for the global showpiece, Mokoka has already opened his 2023 account with a decent run of 2:12:58 for second place during the Hong Kong Marathon earlier this month. He says he is happy with the progress so far.
"Yeah, I can say it's a busy year. Its an Olympic year. So we started early by running a marathon in January (Hong Kong Marathon). We decided that we must start early so we are going to have proper preparations going to the Olympics. I'm supposed to be feeling tired or having some stitches but I'm not feeling any of that. So I'm happy about everything and the year started very well," explained the man who finished as the runner-up at last year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
Having failed to finish the 42,2km race at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Mokoka says he learnt a valuable lesson about preparation, which informed his decision to run in Hong Kong. "When we decided to go to Hong Kong, we looked at the other aspects. We are going to run in Paris (Olympics). We know that Hong Kong is a very hot and humid place. So we looked at the course and we knew it was a rolling hilly one," explained the man, who is under the guidance of renowned athletics coach Michael Seme.
"We are aware that at the Olympics we are going to run a hill route. Plus the conditions won't be friendly as it is likely to be hot with high humidity. So we wanted to go and test ourselves on how my body copes with that. At the previous Olympics where I had to pull out of the race because we believe I couldn't handle the conditions so we wanted to see what is the problem. Was it because of the conditions or I trained in South Africa while it was winter? So we saw that the conditions played a significant role so that is why we went to Hong Kong. So expected the humidity to be around 75 to 85 but It came around 75. The weather conditions were not too hot and I'm happy with the results."
So what is the man who took fifth place in the 2019 World Championships marathon expecting in Paris? "We are hoping for the good results. I mean if we can get a medal we will be happy. Any form of the medal, we would be happy because we are looking at all aspects of how are we going to survive. My coach tells me a nice secret that if you are short then you have an advantage on the hilly courses. So if the program goes well, I believe we are going to do well. If we can get a medal, then it would be a great achievement for the group and myself as a person."