'Its about getting into the club while I'm still relevant' - Mokoka explains why he joined Hollywood AC
On Wednesday 31 January, the South African running community was hit with the news that Olympian Stephen Mokoka had joined the Hollywood Athletics Club. As one of the fastest growing and most vibrant running clubs in the country, Hollywood have landed the big fish to align with their ambitions of dominating the long distances. Already, #ThePurpleTeam have renewed the contract of prominent runners including Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon gold medalist Nkosikhona Mhlakwana and four time Soweto Marathon winner Irvrtte Van Zyl.
"When you walk around the world, you see change. I have seen a lot of clubs existing. I have seen a lot of clubs doing things for their athletes whether it is social or elite runners. When Hollywood started, initial it was basically in Durban and it was more of a social club. When they started to expanding the business to include more elite athletes, then I started having the interest but it took me a long time to take that decision," he said admitting that it was not an easy decision to leave the Boxer Athletic Club which had been his home for over five years.
It was fitting then that the four-time Shanghai Marathon winner should be unveiled on the day that he celebrated his 39th birthday as he looks to his retirement years in the not-too-distant future. Mokoka told a room full of journalists that part of his motivation for leaving Boxer where he had received such good treatment, are the opportunities that Hollywood have offered him to grow even after he hangs up his running shoes.
" The more I age, I have to find something to do in my life. Here (Hollywoodbets) can help you to explore. The day I decide to hang up boots - I don't know when. But the day I decide to do it, I know I will specifically grow with the club or within the company because I have seen TV personalities and sport person in the club and they are like ambassadors. For me, it was like if people of this magnitude are there, let me take a chance. So that one day, I would be given a platform. Its more about getting into the club while I'm still relevant. So I'm exploring the avenues because I have seen how Hollywood is big in terms of influence," said the three-time Cape Town Marathon champion.
For a man who is a three-time Olympian and multiple SA Champion, a lot will be expected of him. Or will it? Hollywood AC Elite Athlete manager Manfred Siedler says signing Mokoka is not only about what he can deliver on the road, but also about his experience and the mentorship that he can offer to some of their developing athletes.
"Stephen is a huge role model in running and any club would be a privileged to have him as a member. When we started the discussions I said to him, I don't see you as an athlete or somebody who runs. But I see you as the inspiration and someone who can make a difference not only to athletes lives but to other people lives. That comes back to Stephen's comments on becoming the ambassador. One of the things that we discussed is that, he will do motivational talks to athletes and even to the team members and staff of the Hollywoodbets. That was key. It's not the fact he is an exceptional athlete but it also about what else he brings to the party," he explained.