van Zyl, Oldknow and Leeto win big at Hollywood AC Gauteng Awards
Had there been a Comeback of The Year Award then Irvette van Zyl would have won that too to underline the vast difference between how she started and finished the 2023 season. Beginning the year with a career threatening injury, the 36-year-old spent almost six months on the sidelines before coming back to win The Totalsports Women's Race and the African Bank Soweto Marathon, while representing South Africa at the World Championships in Budapest. Those achievements saw the mother of two recognized with the Best Female Athlete of the Year Award both Nationally and for Gauteng at yesterday's Hollywood Athletic Club Gauteng Awards.
"It feels good to start the year on a high because last year, I started on a bit of a low. I feel privileged to have won the awards. So it feels great to start the year like this with the support of Hollywood AC," she said alluding to the injury. "I'm chuffed with how the second half turned out because the first bit was really frustrating. The injury took its toll. So I'm happy with how the year turned out and I'm happy to be healthy and running. I'm looking forward to staying injury free - that's my main goal for the year."
For his third place at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon, seventh at the African Bank Soweto Marathon, twelfth place at the Comrades Marathon and being selected to represent the country at the IAU World 50km Championships, Hollywood AC KZN's Nkosikhona Mhlakwana won the national best male athlete of the year. But recognizing him for a season during which he showed tremendous improvement which included clocking a 1:01:34 21,1km lifetime best at the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon, winning the Foskor Half Marathon and representing SA at the World Cross Country Championships, Mathews Leeto was named Gauteng's Best Male Athlete of the Year.
"I feel very happy about the award. In 2023 my goal was to do something that I had never done before in my career. I had told myself that I'm ready to run 61 minutes for the half marathon and go sub 28 for 10km. Unfortunately I didn't manage to run 27 minutes for 10km, but I ended up with a new PB of 28:25 at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10K. So I will go back to the drawing board and prepare with my coach. Remember that 2024 is an Olympic year and I would also love to see myself in Paris, the event that I choose to tackle will depend on my fitness and what it allows me to qualify for," explained the man who is coached by Adam Motlagale.
Another big winner at the Country Club Johannesburg was Cian Oldknow who took home the Moment of The Year Award for winning the Hollywoodbets Durban 10k in a personal best of 32:17, while she was also named Most Improved Female Athlete of The Year with Reghen Magwai taking The Most Improved Male Athlete of The Year. Aside from the top runners, The Purple Team also acknowledged the achievements of their legions of social runners who were celebrated for volunteering, their social media presence and completing the Comrades Marathon. Club chairperson Greg Glossop explained the thinking behind the awards.
"We really love to celebrate everything at Hollywoodbets. We work so hard the whole year, so to have one event is a really good way to give back to the athletes just to say well done for what they have done for the brand. Our club is majority social runners. We love our elites and they stand on the podiums and they shine, but this is about every runner wearing the purple. So everyone needs to be celebrated whether you are on the podium or achieving your personal best. It's still your personal best and we must celebrate everyone."