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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'It’s good that we're both doing well' - SA record under threat as Mphahlele & Tshite race Ostrava

After winning the national 1500m title in 2019, Ryan Mphahlele was hailed as the coming man in South African middle distance running. But failure to qualify for the 2019 World Championships in Doha, left some questioning his true abilities. A question that the 25-year-old has silenced this year, by not only qualifying for the World Champs in Hungary, but by bettering four of his lifetime bests from 1500m (3:32.90) to the mile (3:55.59) and 5 000m (13:46.57 at altitude) to 5km (13:24) on the road.

Asked what's changed, he says while he's training remains generally the same, he has altered his mentality especially when it comes to racing. "I have done anything much different. What I’ve done is become a little more fearless and become more ambitious to achieve my goals," said the man who is coached by Elvis Khoza.

Tshite and Mphahlele go head to head down the home straight at the Cape Milers/Endurocad Invitational Meet at the Green Point Stadium. Photo Credit: Gallo Images.

That new approach was plain for all to see in a thrilling 1500m race against Tshepo Tshite during a Cape Milers/Endurocad Invitational meet at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town. On that cool April evening, Mphahlele put on a fearless display of front running leaving 2017 world champion Elijah Manangoi of Kenya in his wake as only Tshite went with his electrifying pace. #KingRyan would go on to run the second fastest time by a South African man, a performance which was later eclipsed by Tshite when he also dipped under 3:33 last week. Mphahlele says his friendly rivalry with Tshite pushes him to be better.

"My relationship with Tshepo is quite cool in the game, we bring out the best in each other when we compete at home. And when we outchea overseas we encourage each other to do well against the best athletes in the world. It’s good that we are both doing very well now because we are lifting the standard of middle-distance running in the country so the next generation can be inspired to do as well as we are doing, or even better," he told #TheTopRunner.

Mphahlele and Tshite in the Czech Republic ahead of the Ostrava Golden Spike Meeting. Photo Credit: Supplied.

That sentiment means that the man who hails from Thembisa on the east of Gauteng, will view Tshite as a teammate when the pair lineup at the Ostrava Golden Spike Athletics Meet in the Czech Republic tonight alongside Olympic champions and World Record holders. With steeplechase world record-holder Lamecha Girma included in the Zatopek Memorial 1500m, Mphahlele and Tshite may find themselves within striking distance of Johan Cronje's national record (3:31.93) which was set back in 2013. The Tornado from Thembisa says these four races on the European circuit are all about building towards the World Champs in Budapest in August.

"My goal for these races is to give my very best performances as training has gone well in the past 8 weeks in preparation for them. I’ve been maintaining my peak fitness with consistent training, that’s the only magic me and coach Elvis are doing and if we keep at it we’ll do well at the World Champs in August. The aim for the world champs is reach the final, and when we reach the final, we going for nothing less than the podium places. And as long as I give my very best, win or lose I will take the results."

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