Nkhasi announces return as Frans is crowned SA Champ at NMB Half Marathon
After a difficult time in the athletics wilderness, Namakoe Nkhasi announced his return to the winners circle with a thrilling win at today's Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon. Reunited with coach George Gundry and training under the watchful eye of coach Michael Seme on the same University of Johannesburg track in Soweto that brought him Two Oceans 21km success in 2016, the man from Lesotho out-sprinted his opposition to claim the R80 000 winner's purse in the new personal best time of 1:00:00.
But just three seconds behind Nkhasi was hometown favourite Melikhaya Frans who smashed his lifetime best by over a minute as he set a new Eastern Province Athletics record that had stood for 25 years. More importantly though, for a man who has run five personal bests from 5000m to 42,2km in the last nine months is that this was his first ever national title.
"I feel excited to be second overall and the first South African," he told #TheTopRunner just before climbing atop the podium to receive his gold medal. "I didn't do my target because I told myself that I am going to run sub 61, but nevertheless at least I have the SA title in my hands here at home in PE. So that was a good thing for me because people on the course were shouting my name and I was so excited that I needed to control my emotions and remain calm."
In running the fastest 21km of his career and beating the likes of Precious Mashele (fourth in 1:00:13) and Stephen Mokoka (fifth in 1:00:14), the 32-year old also underlined his good form ahead of the World Championships in the United States next month. Having qualified to represent South Africa in the marathon alongside Mokoka, Frans will now believe that anything is possible when he steps on the start line in Oregon next month.
"It gives me confidence that I am going to run well in Oregon in the World Championships. Since 2016 coach was there for me and told me to stick to the training. I'm so blessed with the team I am work with. My focus is to go to Oregon and run sub 2:10. I know I can run sub 2:10 because I have Stephen Mokoka - the experienced guy. He's going to motivate me. I think we'll come back with a medal - any medal," said the man coached by Mike Mbambani.
The woman's race was dominated by Ethiopia's Ftaw Zeray who produced a distance running masterclass leading from gun to tape to claim the victory in 1:06:57. 41-year-old Helalia Johannes was good value for her second place as her 1:07:49 earned her a new Namibian national record and a world best in the 40-45 age category. Reigning SPAR Grand Prix champion Tadu Nare of the Nedbank Running Club took third (1:07:55) to ensure a foreign sweep of the podium. Glenrose Xaba was the first South African woman home in 1:10:40 for seventh position.