Ngxabazi finds glory in new distance to highlight the work of the Orcas Academy
Despite tackling the 10km distance for only the third time in his career, Orcas Running Academy athlete Itumeleng Ngxabazi managed to secure a second-place finish at the Scottsburgh 10km on Sunday which incorporated the KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) 10km Championships. The winner Bongelani Mkhwanazi was not eligible for the provincial title as he was running under a temporary license which meant that Ngxabazi was elevated to the status of champion. Speaking to #TheTopRunner the 22-year-old runner who specializes in the 1500m and 5000m events on the track says he surprised himself with his result on the day.
"I'm happy with the way I ran. The time ( 30:51), I managed to run on the day didn't come easily because the route was challenging and had some hills in it. I managed to stick to the plan that we had with the coach (Sihle Shange). I had no experience whatsoever because it was only my third time running on the road. So to get it right impresses me big time. But the plan is to continue with track for now as I believe that it is where I'm good. As time goes on, I will run a couple more road races but I'm not planning to make a permanent switch as yet," he explained.
Ngxabazi who took sixth place in the 5000m (15:03.87) at the last year's KZN Track & Field Senior Championships at the Msunduzi Athletics Stadium in Pietermaritzburg is entering his third year with Orcas, having been scouted in 2022. He believes that staying at the clubhouse in Inanda, a township outside of Durban, with other athletes has contributed greatly to his improvement as a runner.
"I think staying at the clubhouse has been crucial for me as I focus solely on running. All these athletes that I stay with talk the same language which is running. So I don't think of other things besides running. Also, my coach has been good to me. He is the person that can easily spot me when I'm not okay. He can train me physically but he is good at getting an emotional side of each athlete under his wings. There is a big difference in terms of how I was performing when I arrived here. So I see where am I going in life," said the athlete who hails from Pretoria in Gauteng.
For Prodigal Khumalo, the founder of the academy, seeing Ngxabazi performing shows that their vision is coming to fruition. "Our mission was clear right from the beginning. We wanted to be an academy that will scout and groom athletes from across the country here at our camp. Itumeleng is the only one coming from Pretoria. This is a dream come true to us as the Academy. We want to assist him to improve his times and eventually assist him in racing internationally."