Swart upsets Sekgodišo, Masalela beats Sibiya and new course record for Xaba at Thembisa Mile
Bidding to winning the race for a record fifth time, Prudence Sekgodišo started the 2023 Thembisa Mile Women's Elite Invitational Mile as the overwhelming favourite. But Someone forgot to tell Charne Swart that. The 21-year-old 800m specialist from the University of Pretoria timed her charge to perfection and overtook the reigning SA middle distance double champion 100m before the finish line outside the Moses Molelekwa Arts Centre for what ended up being a thrilling victory.
"It was actually tough. I knew that the last hill would be long so I just waited for the right time to strike and it worked. I'm very happy because it felt quite good. I'm actually 10-weeks into my off-season training and it's working. My coach has a good plan. I've been doing a lot of strength work and putting in the mileage, so it's paying off," she said moments after securing her first Thembisa Mile win in 4:54 which was three seconds ahead of Sekgodišo, with Botswana's 800m national record holder Oratilwe Nowe in third (4:58).
Where Swart's victory came as a surprise to the crowd that had lined the home straight, the men's race went according to the form book. Botswana's Tshepiso Masalela continued the excellent form that saw him finish sixth in the 800m at the recent World Championships in Hungary, when he breasted the tape in 4:13 to defeat multiple SA 1500m champion Nkosinathi Sibiya (4:14) with his compatriot Kethlobogile Hanguira third in 4:14.
"It was good because I've been training for three weeks now so I was just coming here to enjoy and test the fitness," said the man who trains alongside Tshepo Tshite under coach Samuel Sepeng. "I also run 1500m, but it's just that I haven't broken 3:40 yet so because I've already qualified (for the Olympic Games) in 800m, my aim is to be competitive in 1500m and 400m. Since I joined Sepeng he told me that this year is going to be good. I trusted him and even now I still trust him," he said.
To have attracted world class athletes such as Maselela, Sekgodišo and World University Games bronze medalist Swart says a lot about the standards being set by Founder and Race Director of the Thembisa Mile and 10km Donald Mathipa and his team. The Ekhurhuleni township's premier road running event's list of past competitors reads like a who's who of Southern African middle and long distance running with the likes of Caster Semenya, Johan Cronje, Namakoe Nkhasi and the Phalula twins having graced the occasion with their presence.
"When I started this event 11 years ago I never dreamed that it would reach these heights," said Mathipa as his team pf dedicated volunteers packed up the race venue in the middle of a windy highveld downpour. "What makes me happiest is that we also have the age group miles which serve as development races while clubs have come from across the country to be part of the event. It shows that we are going in the right direction, so we just have to keep doing that."
In the 10km event, over 2000 social runners flooded the streets of South Africa's second biggest township in a celebration of life at The Running Party. Glenrose Xaba dominated the women's race winning by almost three minutes in a new course record of 33:28 as the improving Karabo Mailula took the runner-up spot (36:11) and Maxed Elite's Regina Ndungu continued her good 2023 with a third place finish (36:28). The men's race proved to be a battle of the marathon athletes as Boxer Athletic Club's Puseletso Mofokeng used all his strength to power to victory on the hilly course (30:56), with Collen Mulaudzi of the Hollywood Athletics Club second (31:00) and iKhaya Lethu's Samuel Moloi third (31:12).