Photo and Mkhwananzi sign on as Black Diamond AC reveal 2024 recruits
After a stressful six months of searching for a new running club, Rufus Photo has finally found a new home. Photo is among the new members announced by the Black Diamond Athletics Club for the 2024 road running season. Since engineering company Murray & Roberts withdrew their sponsorship of the running club last June, Photo had to deal with the reality of losing his monthly retainer. Despite these challenges, the veteran runner responded with a resounding Comrades Marathon performance claiming a celebrated fifth place in a Down Run personal best time of 5:21:48.
The 43-year-old Photo says obtaining a new professional contract has allowed him to breathe a sigh of relief. "It has been a hectic six months months. I'm happy that finally, I will run under a new club in the upcoming season. It feels so good that I'm going to start the season on a very high note," said the man who was part of the Team SA squad that contested the 2016 World 100km Championships.
"Black Diamond was the first club that approached me after I ran well in Comrades. During that run, I needed to remind people that I'm still hungry for more success. So we engaged from July but the deal was only concluded this year. I think the club is the perfect fit for what I'm looking for. We have discussed race plans and I believe this is the start of a very fruitful journey between us. So yeah, I'm super excited to run for this growing club," shared the man who lives and trains in Polokwane, Limpopo.
The signing of Photo comes in handy for the KZN-based club's ambitions to achieve a first Comrades gold medal. Last year, the club's top performer in the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathon was Zukile Vellem, who settled for 17th position overall in a time of 5:36:14 on debut. For Photo, Comrades which is scheduled on the 9th of June, remains his top priority as he has unfinished business with the race.
"I think my legs still have much to offer on the road. I believe as I grow older, I become stronger. In the past, I was training alone but I have new young guys who are fuelling me. So I'm still targeting a good Comrades performance this year. In preparation for it, I'm going to skip certain races including Two Oceans to better my chances. I think once I can finish on the podium at Comrades then I would be satisfied. That has always been my dream."
Other notable names that will run in Black Diamond colours this year are Bongelani Mkhwanazi and Siphamandala Nkosi. Mkhwanazi had an exceptional season and announced himself as one of the most dangerous country's athletes in the middle-long distances. Those performances include blasting a new personal best 10km time with a super run of 28:26 and then a promising 1:02:49 over the half marathon distance.