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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Glenrose helped me' - Karabo Mailula pays tribute to Xaba after winning first senior national title

In the absence of South Africa's more established distance running stars, yesterday's Athletics South Africa Cross Country Championships presented the opportunity for a new champion to be crowned. While it was never in any doubt that Kabelo Mulaudzi would win the senior men's 10km race in Gqeberha, the women's long race was more open. In the end it was Karabo Mailula of Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) who triumphed to secure her maiden senior national title and the first major victory of her career.

"The weather was so bad," she told #TheTopRunner after crossing the finish line in 36:46. "It was so windy and it was my first time running in such windy conditions in PE. I knew that the weather would be bad, but I never expected such wind. It was so challenging, but I told myself that it's not only me who's feeling this weather so I have to fight."

Mailula on the way to winning the senior women's 10km race at the 2023 ASA Cross Country Championships in Gqeberha to claim her first national title. Photo Credit: Petrus Rademeyer Photography.

Although it may be the first time that some hear the name of the 21-year-old, she has improved steadily since first being spotted by legendary top-runner-turned-coached Nixon Nkodima in the Pretoria township of Mabopane as a junior. Now running in the colours of Tuks Athletics, Mailula showed her potential when she took eighth position in 18:12 at the national 5km Championships in June and then followed that up with another good eighth place (35:04) at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY TSHWANE 10K last month.

"I think I managed to improve this year because of the base that I did last year which really helped. We went to a camp with my teammates in Limpopo at the end of last year. I was doing well in my long runs and Glenrose helped me. She is my teammate. We were pacing each other. I also saw improvement in my speed work and morning jogs," said the woman who is coached by Violet Semenya and trains alongside multiple SA Champion Glenrose Xaba.

Mailula has been an improving athlete in 2023. Here she is pictured at the ASA 5km Championships in Nasrec where she finished in eighth place. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Mailula was the only woman to break 37 minutes at the Nelson Mandela University Sports Fields as another 21-year-old Carmie Prinsloo took the silver medal in 37:13 to make it a 1-2 finish for AGN. Kirsti Bell who also hails from Pretoria but now represents Athletics Free State (AFS) earned the bronze medal. Bell who won the 2019 SA 3000m steeplechase title as a junior, ran 38:12 for third. The 21-year-old Kovsies' athlete's bronze medal means that Saturday 16 September will be remembered as a day on which athletics development of female distance runners in Gauteng North was proven successful.

In the men's race, Kabelo Mulaudzi made it four wins from four starts when he dominated the senior men's 10km event. Mulaudzi's 30:43 was 45 seconds ahead of runner-up Pakiso Mthembu of KwaZulu-Natal Athletics as Nadeel Wildschutt claimed the bronze medal for Boland Athletics in 31:33.

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