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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'I feel honoured' - Mike Mbambani reflects on being selected to lead SA Olympic Marathon team

Renowned South African athletics coach Mike Mbambani feels the wonderful work he is doing to shape future athletes doesn't go unnoticed. This comes after he was selected by Athletics South Africa ( ASA) to oversee the marathon team that will represent the country at the Olympics games in the French capital Paris later this year. So far Gerda Steyn, Irvette Van Zyl and Cian Oldknow have already secured their golden tickets in the women's team, while while four-time Shanghai Marathon winner Stephen Mokoka is the lone male athlete that has managed to dip under the stringent 2:08:10 automatic qualification time. 

Mbambani poses fellow Eastern Province Athletics men Melikhaya Frans and Luxolo Adams before jetting off to Budapest for the 2023 Athletics World Championships. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Speaking to #TheTopRunner, Mbambani who coaches top country's athletes including Melikhaya Frans and Thabang Mosiako, said the appointment came as a huge surprise. "I'm shocked, surprised and at the same time happy to be appointed as the marathon coach for the upcoming Olympics in France. Its something I never expected to be fair with you. I feel honoured to be considered for this wonderful experience," explains the man who was held a similar position at the 2023 World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.


"We all know that the Olympics are the biggest sporting event in the world. Nothing beats them. So to be part of them is something huge in my career. I could say, without a doubt that this is the biggest achievement in my coaching career. The credit must go to the athletes I'm coaching for excelling so that my work behind the scenes is seen. Without them, I wouldn't have achieved that much in my life," said the man who founded the Ikhamva Athletic Club which is based on the outskirts of Gqeberha.


Mbambani is honoured with the coach of the year award at the ASA Awards in January 2023. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

While it was his athletes that performed well in 2022 and 2023, 2024 is turning out to be Mbambani's year as his contribution to the sport is recognized. The former top runner won ASA coach of the year award in January for being a driving force into Mosiako's career. Mosiako has an amazing 2023 as he won the SA Half Marathon title when he crossed the finish line first at at the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon and then also dipped under 28 minutes three times recording a personal best time of 27:45 in a race in France. 

"When I started coaching athletes, I told myself that I want to make them better people in life. This wasn't about me looking to shine. So I'm doing all of this for the love of the game. I'm grateful that I'm having athletes that are responding well to the way we conduct things. Its crucial in terms of finding good results or performances."

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