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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Mhlakwana wins big at Hollywoodbets Athletics Club awards

South African ultra-Marathon starlet Nkosikhona Mhlakwana was the big winner at the Hollywoodbets Athletics Club Awards gala ceremony held at the Greyville Racecourse on Saturday afternoon. Mhlakwana scooped the male athlete of the year accolade award after a great 2022 where he obtained second position on his Two Oceans debut and claimed sixth position in the Comrades Marathon. For his efforts the 29-year-old walked away with a cheque of R5 000. Speaking to #TheTopRunner, the man who hails from Siphumelele in Howick is pleased about the lengths to which his club will go to appreciate their athletes' achievements.

"I'm happy that the club gathered us together to celebrate the wonderful year we had on the road. The management is always doing splendid job to ensure that we don't regret being part of the team. To get an award is a great indication that I have done well to get the club represented out there. I hope the club will continue doing this thing to motivate athletes to perform at the highest level," explains Mhlakwana, who is coached by Comrades gold medalist Prodigal Khumalo.

Hollywoodbets AC male athlete of the year Nkosikhona Mhlakwana poses with female athlete of the year Ann Ashworth (right) and the newly recruited Irvette van Zyl (left). Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets Athletics Club.

Asked how he is hoping to replicate the remarkable form he has shown on the road again in 2023 - Mhlakwana believes the mental strength will be the key. "I think my body now is used to the training program that the coach has structured me for the particular event. I'm physically strong and training hard to prepare for the races. As you grow in sport then the previous experience should work in your favour if you want to succeed. So I need to be mentally strong in order to repeat the outstanding form I had last year. I must have a good mindset along with positive attitude," he said.

Meanwhile, former Comrades Marathon winner Ann Ashworth walked away with the female athlete of the year trophy. Although the 2018 Comrades champion failed to finish last year's 90km race because of injury she did claim seventh place at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon. Without disparaging Ashworth's 2022 achievements, some had though that the award could go to Nontokozo Mkhize who by many accounts enjoyed a breakthrough year.

Mkhize's wonderful performances include coming eighth on her debut Two Oceans Marathon, winning the Prince Mangosuthu 52km, coming tenth in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and claiming top honours at the Josiah Gumede Marathon. Some suggestions are that the 30-year-old may have been overlooked because she is leaving the club.

Social runners were also rewarded for their efforts at Comrades 2022. Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets AC.

Aside from the top runner, it was a day of celebration with a great time had by all. Social runners were also rewarded for their performances at the Comrades Marathon in particular. All runners who earned a Silver medal at The Ultimate Human Race received R7 500, R4 500 for a Bill Rowan medal, R2 500 for the sub 10-hour Robert Mtshali finish and R1 500 for Bronze and R1 000 for Vic Clapham medalists. "Once again, to see all runners who finished Comrades being applauded was wonderful to watch," said Mhlakwana.

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