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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I wanted to win the whole thing' - Mphahlele reflects on storming World Cross Country relay run

Despite having to endure the heartache of just missing out on what would have been a first ever medal for South Africa at the World Cross Country Championships, Ryan Mphahlele remains upbeat about his performance. And why shouldn't he be after he delivered one of the most memorable cross country efforts of anyone who has ever donned the green and gold.

Running the opening leg of the 4 x 2km mixed relay, the man from Thembisa shocked many athletics pundits when he left the East Africans trailing in his wake. Although South Africa would end up finishing in fourth place as Kenya, Ethiopia and hosts Australia secured the top three positions respectively, the 2022 African Championships silver medalist underlined his status as a truly world class runner.

Mphahele is an accomplished cross country athlete. Here he is pictured running in the colours of his Thembisa Athletic Club on the way to winning the 2021 Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) senior men's 4km title. Photo Credit: FFA Sportsman.

"Because the format was man-woman-man-woman, we had to come up with a strategy," he told #TheTopRunner. "We sat as a group and obviously knowing myself I thought it would be better to start a bit aggressively, even though I wasn't as aggressive as I wanted to be. So we started well," said the man who won the 2018 National Cross Country title.

That aggression saw the 1500m specialist complete his opening leg first as he handed over to reigning 800m and 1500m national champion Prudence Sekgodišo. Holding on to second position for the first kilometre of her leg, Sekgodišo was eventually passed by the Australians with the Ethiopians taking her on the line as South Africa slipped to fourth. But there was nothing between third and fourth, especially after a mature and calculated run by national 800m champion Tshepo Tshite who wrestled back third position.

Mphahlele leading the charge at the World Cross Counrty Championships which took place in Bathurst, Australia. Photo Credit: FFA Sportsman.

With a podium finish on the cards, Caster Semenya took the last leg but didn't have enough in the tank to claim what would have been a maiden World Cross Country medal for South Africa. Despite being disappointed about finishing in the dreaded fourth place, #KingRyan is proud of his efforts.

"I feel okay. I feel like we could have done a little bit more. Obviously I'm not satisfied because I wanted the whole thing and win the whole thing. I felt the other guys also wanted to win the relay or at least bag a medal. That would have been very impressive. But regardless, we put in a great effort and hats off to ourselves for that. We did our best on the day," he said.

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