Mphahlele and Sekgodiso to headline as thrilling race is expected at SPAR Thembisa Street Mile
Reigning SA 4km cross country champion Ryan Mphahlele is ready to take on some of the country's best middle-distance athletes at the 2021 SPAR Thembisa Street Mile on Sunday. The 2019 SA 1500m champion is the headline act in a star-studded men's field which includes national 3000m record holder Jerry Matsau who won the race last time it was held in 2019, as well as two-time national 1 500m champion Nkosinathi Sibiya, and 800m specialists Tshepo Tshite and Kabelo Mohlosi.
As the first Thembisan to win the race (2018), Mphahlele says winning the title was an important milestone in his fledgling career which gave him an indescribable feeling of accomplishment. "The Thembisa Mile is hosted in Thembisa, in my hood, where I was born," he told #TheTopRunner. "So obviously winning it for the first time was great and I couldn't ask for a better feeling. It felt great!"
The 23-year old's achievements are already inspiring those around him and he would like to see more youngsters from his township following in his footsteps by harnessing their talent to become top runners. "I think what should be done for us to have more great athletes from Thembisa is that we need a little more innovation to give much more opportunities to young athletes, especially at school sport level because that's where the talent is. We need to give these kids more opportunities to run not just in athletics season but throughout the year to try and locate talent and develop them to become better athletes," he explained.
In the women's race defending champion Prudence Sekgodiso will also have a battle on her hands as she targets her third successive victory. The SA 800m champion, is up against a field which includes former SPAR Thembisa Mile champion Simonay Weitsz, local favourite Murendwa Davhana, Janie Janse van Rensburg and Carina Swiegers.
While the event's regular 10km race has been scratched, and invitational entries will be limited due to the evolving nature of the Covid pandemic, organisers have worked hard to ensure the ninth edition of the street mile will go ahead as planned, despite lockdown restrictions.
"We are delighted to have this chance to give some of South Africa's best athletes a chance to compete again, despite the restrictions faced due to the Covid pandemic," said SPAR North Rand marketing manager Ralph Rajagopaul. "Congratulations to race organiser Donald Mathipa and his team for making sure this event can go ahead, once again proving that SPAR and its partners will continue to drive forward in these challenging times, while ensuring we put participants and the Thembisa community first by following health and safety policies in the process."
The elite field will compete for a total prize purse of R29 000, with the men's and women's winners taking home R3 000 each. Time bonuses worth R4 000 are also on offer for the first man and woman to break the course records held by Mphahlele (4:02) and Lebogang Phalula-Luthuli (4:44). The race which takes place at the Moses Molelekwa Arts Centre on 31 October 2021 will be streamed live from 8am, while a radio broadcast will be available on Vision View.TV (watch.visionview.tv).