Mphahlele and Viljoen to represent SA at inaugural road mile World Championships
Following their success at the Cape Milers/Endurocad Invitational Meets in Cape Town, Ryan Mphahlele and Carina Viljoen have been selected to represent South Africa at the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships. The two-day festival of road running which takes place in the Latvian city of Riga from 30 September to 1 October, will for the first time include mile and 5km races as well as the long standing half marathon championships.
Speaking at the final of three Cape Milers meets at the Green Point Stadium last night, Athletics South Africa (ASA) Road Running Commission chairperson Enoch Skosana confirmed that Mphahlele and Viljoen would don the green and gold in Latvia after winning their respective mile races. The Tornado from Thembisa clocked 3:55.59 to win the 1609m race ahead of Kenyan World championships gold medalist Elijah Manangoi, while Viljoen was unchallenged as she coasted to a 4:34.94 victory in the women's mile.
Organisers of the event Bruce Stewart and Francois van Rensburg say they are pleased that their meet is contributing positively towards middle distance running in the country. Endorsed by ASA and afforded World Continental Challenger status by World Athletics the three meets produced some excellent performances - most notably Mphahlele's world lead 3:32.90 clocking which is the second fastest 1500m time ever run by a South African.
"We'd like to see the mile come back. It's not an Olympic or World Championship event but they've introduced a road mile now. It's an iconic event and the Dream Mile (sub 4 minute mile) was always something that was revered yet now in the NCAA you see 100 schoolboys running a sub four minute mile. We just felt that part of our outlook about running was to bring back that iconic feel to the event," explained Stewart.
But it's not just about the mile because the three meets provided an opportunity for local middle athletes to run fast times at a coastal meet. Before winning the mile, Viljoen ran a personal best 8:58.39 over 3000m during the first meet on the 14th of April, while Maxime Chaumeton did the same when he clocked 7:50:32. Kyla Jacobs was impressive when she won the women's 5000m during the second meet in a lifetime best 15:20.61, while Precious Mashele ended the series by moving up to seventh on the SA All-Time 10 000m list with a strong solo run of 27:55.87. van Rensburg says these performances demonstrate that athletes can deliver world class performances if they are given quality opportunities.
"The last time I can remember three guys running close to 3:35 in one race in South Africa was probably in 1993 when myself, Johan Landsman and Whaddon Niewoudt did it. I think things are getting better, the coaching is getting better. They just need opportunity. You can't have every single national championships at altitude at Potch and Germiston and Pretoria very year because it disadvantages a massive group. But I think there has been a revival, especially with Cape Milers offering these guys an opportunity to run fast. We want to grow this into a festival of middle distance running," he said.