'I can't give up now' says Mashele as he falls agonisingly short of Olympic qualification
South African middle and long sensation Precious Mashele is optimistic that he can still hit the Olympic qualifying standard to be on the plane to Tokyo. Mashele missed the mark by a whisker when he ran a sizzling 13:18 over 5 000m at Green Point Stadium on Saturday, to fall just seconds short of the 13:13 needed to qualify.
After being initially paced by Phantane Athletic club's Adam Lipschitz, the Limpopo-born athlete produced a brave performance covering the last 2km on his own with the small crowd consisting of technical officials and coaches left to cheer on him. Even though he failed to hit the time that would take him to his first Olympics, The Machine says setting a new personal best over the distance still excites him.
"I tried to push the way I can in Cape Town in that race," explains the man, who is coached by SA 10 000m record holder Hendrick Ramaala. "The conditions were fine for me to run. I gave it all on the day. I'm not disappointed with me failing to hit the right time to qualify for the Olympics. I'm still positive that I managed to run a personal best which excites me very much. That alone shows the progress and I must go back to train hard," said an optimistic Mashele.
The 30-year-old reigning SA Half Marathon champion is yet to throw a towel on what is becoming an ever-more elusive Olympic dream, especially because besides the qualification window closes in two weeks. He thinks more races will make his dream a reality.
"I'm thinking of coming down to Durban next week to race there," explains the Boxer Athletics Club Athlete. "I can't give up now especially with just 5 seconds between me and the time required to be on the plane to Japan. I must speak to coach Mdu Khumalo and ask Mbuleli Mathanga to pace me for the first 3km in Durban. I like Mathanga because he is brave, not afraid to lead the race. If he can push me very well then I stand to do well," he said.
Ramaala agrees. The 2004 New York Marathon winner believes they have done too much work and are so close. Himself a four-time Olympian, Ramaala says Olympic qualification would sum up a good year for Mashele.
"We will keep on trying till he gets the time," explains Ramaala. "It's possible now because he has to chop a second in every kilometer he runs. That close and we must keep trying. The process closes in 2 weeks and there are still races on offer now. He (Mashele) has had a wonderful year no doubt but the Olympics remains a huge priority. I'm not thinking of anything right now as our focus is on Olympics," he concluded.
The Olympic qualification window closes on 29 June.