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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Mthembu and Chaumeton shine at USSA Cross Country Champs

South African middle distance runner Pakiso Mthembu ripped apart a strong field to be crowned University Sports South Africa (USSA) Cross Country 4km Champion in the Free State on Friday. Mthembu, who was representing the University of Free State completed the course in a time of 11:50 to claim his first USSA cross country title. Speaking to the #TheTopRunner, Mthembu expressed his delight saying the win was expected based on the good training he had.

"I'm so happy that I have managed to win the race. It wasn't an easy race for anyone but through proper training I have managed to do well," said Mthembu, who represented South Africa at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Denmark. "In training the signs indicated that I'm fully fit. I switched the program with my coach (Xolani Mabhida) late since I only knew two weeks before the race that I'm no longer going to do the 10km race. But I adapted well to those changes and followed my coach's instructions carefully. I'm so happy, especially with the time I managed to clock," he said.

Pakiso Mthembu celebrates after winning the USSA Cross Country 4km title. Photo Credit: USSA.

The 22-year-old KwaZulu-Natal-based athlete is confident that this run will propel him to a good performance at the South African 10km Championship in Durban on October 31. "This race was part of my preparation for the SA 10km Championship. That's where I'm hoping to have a good race. If I can do well in the championship then I would be happy. Remember, I'm still trying to get my form back after suffering the injury two years back so slowly I'm getting good performances. I must keep working hard till I'm in the shape of winning titles," he explains.

Mthembu will face another young gun in Maxime Chaumeton at the SA Champs which thanks to Stillwater Sports, are now sponsored by ABSA. Chaumeton won the 10km race over the weekend to add to the 5000m USSA title he won earlier this year. The 21-year old 1500m specialist is looking to improve on his 29:14 PB when he races eThekwini in two weeks time.

Chaumeton on his way to winning the USSA 5000m title in May. Photo Credit: USSA/Skhu Nkomphela.

"My coach said to go enjoy the USSA’s and run it as a tempo from the front. I did that and felt extremely comfortable the whole way. I have never been more ready to run a 10km fast even though it isn’t my main distance. I am feeling excited for upcoming races and am proud to have brought gold to the university," said the University of Johannesburg who trains under the guidance of 2004 New York Marathon champion Hendrik Ramaala at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.

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