• Charles Baloyi

Thugwane backs Mokoka to medal at Tokyo 2021

SA long-distance sensation Stephen Mokoka is more than capable of winning a medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, that's according to Josia Thugwane. The first black South African to win an Olympic gold medal is backing Mokoka to c[bring back a medal from The Games which are scheduled to take place in Japan in July. The 49-year old who won the Olympic marathon in Atlanta, USA, in 1996 when he clocked 2:12:36, thinks Mokoka has what it takes to finish the race inside the top three. “My message to Mokoka is that he must start training now and prepare himself well for the marathon,” said the Bridgestone Olympic ambassador. “Mokoka is the best long-distance runner in the country, and I believe in him. I would like to see a runner that can finish on the podium, and Mokoka has the best chance of achieving that," explained Thugwane.

Mokoka (centre) with his Sponge Group teammates Glenrose Xaba (left) & Collen Mulaudzi (right) after his top 10 finish at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships. Photo Credit: Stephen Mokoka.

Although retired from active competition, Thugwane is still involved in the sport, training aspirant athletes during his spare time. He says it's more difficult to make it as an athlete because running no longer enjoys the same financial support it did a generation ago. “Companies no longer invest in runners. During my time, companies assisted runners with resources. However, athletes are on their own these days. Hard work alone is not enough to win an Olympic medal," he stressed.

But he encouraged Mokoka and other runners not to lose hope and keep on working hard. "They have a chance to do well at the Olympics. They must not lose hope and keep on working hard. Mokoka is pushing, and he has a great coach in Micheal Seme. I suggest that a training camp somewhere in Lesotho or Ethiopia will benefit our marathon team. They need all the support they can get from Athletics South Africa,” added Thugwane.


Olympic medalists Hezekiel Sepeng (left) & Josia Thugwane (right) pose with ASA Board Member Dorah Mngwevu. Photo Credit: Mosibodi Whitehead.

Mokoka said it is an honour that his hero sees him as a medal prospect going into the games. Tshipi who grew up watching Thugwane, is motivated by the running legend's words of encouragement. “It is an honour for me to hear him say that. I train to achieve, and when a person as big as Josia says that I stand a good chance to win a medal, that motivates me to keep on going,” said a flattered Mokoka.

But before he can do well in Tokyo, the four-time Shanghai Marathon winner needs to race a marathon to gauge his fitness. “We have to take things one step at a time. I need to run a marathon in March or April. There are no confirmed races. We are waiting for the races to open. My manager is working hard to try to secure a race overseas. I do not know if I am doing the right things in training if I do not test myself in a competitive race. It is hard to plan without races. We need race fitness to gauge ourselves,” explained Mokoka.


Mokoka beats East Africa's finest to win the 2019 FNB Durban 10k City Surf Run. Photo Credit: Stillwater Sports & Tobias Ginsberg.

Mokoka said he is healthy and is waiting for races to open. He ran three races last year, and the same number would do this year. “The Covid-19 pandemic demoralizes me as an athlete. I want to know the kind of shape I am in after running my first race. His words make me feel like a brand new runner, and I have to work hard not to disappoint him,” he added.

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