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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

"I just wanna focus on making progress" - Mphahlele after winning back-to-back races

Ryan Mphahlele is on top of the world after ending 2021 with a bang! The tornado from Thembisa scorched a quality field including SA 3000m record holder Jerry Matsau when he won the senior men's one mile event at the Swartberg Miles and Sprints Track Meet on Saturday evening. Better still, the weekend's victory came just two days after the 23-year old won the Klein Karoo Street mile where he again got the better of Matsau. Mphahlele says nothing beats that winning feeling.

"I feel fantastic with back-to-back victories," he told #TheTopRunner shortly after his triumph in the Western Cape. "As they say confidence breeds victories and victories breed more confidence. I'm outchea back-to-backing, so I'm just gonna keep on winning." But perhaps even more impressive than the consecutive first places are the finishing times. On Saturday, the reigning Thembisa Mile champion clocked a new personal best time of 3:57.64 on the track to eclipse his old mark of 3:59.44 set back in 2018. It was also the fastest mile on South African soil for over five years. He says he has Matsau to thank for this.

Mphahlele leads as Matsau pays close attention at the Swartberg Miles on Saturday. Photo Credit: Hans van der Veen.

"I ran two sub four minute miles in both races. Obviously when there's solid competition from the likes of Jerry, you're gonna be forced to run your best because I don't want to lose. I wanna win every time but people like Jerry are also hungry for the win so you are going to run a bit quicker. For example in the first race I was planning to take it easy but Jerry wouldn't let me, so sometimes it helps to have healthy competition," said the man known affectionately as King Ryan.

The 2019 SA 1500m champion's form comes at exactly the right time because Mphahlele is making a comeback this year after battling with injuries during the second of half of 2019. In September, He won the SA 4KM Cross Country Championship held in Amanzimtoti in Durban before winning the Thembisa Street Mile at the end of October. But despite his excellent current form, Ryan's name was a notable omission from the 2022 National Preparation Squad released by Athletics South Africa last week. He is not losing sleep over it though.

Mphahlele poses after clocking yet another sub-4 minute mile. Photo Credit: Hans van der Veen.

"Of course my name is not on the list but I'm not worried about that. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is that when the deadline hits for whatever major championships that will be available, is whether you have run the qualifying time or not. I can be in the preparation squad right now but if I don't run the qualifying time then it won't matter because I won't be in the squad," he reasoned.

That talk betrays the Adidas sponsored athlete's major goal for 2022. After missing out on the World Championships in Doha in two years ago, he would want to be there in Oregon next year even if he won't nail his colours to the mast just yet. "I've got goals for 2022 but at the moment I'd like to keep them strictly private. I just wanna focus on making progress and do what I do best which is winning races," he concluded.

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