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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

What we need to produce first black female Comrades Champion - Ann Ashworth weighs in

2018 Comrades Marathon champion Ann Ashworth believes for the country to produce more black female athletes it needs more sponsors to invest in the sport. Ashworth who was previously the captain of Team Massmart Athletics Club has been passionate about seeing more women runners making strides. When she formed Massmart, it was based on identifying and grooming female marathon and ultra marathon runners.

Speaking at the Hollywoodbets Athletics Club Two Oceans celebration a fortnight ago, Ashworth emphasized the essential things to be done for a black female runner to win Comrades Marathon one day."I think during my time with Massmart we spend much time and energy towards that goal. It was a goal of the team to try and get the first black female to win Comrades Marathon. That was our focus. In the three years we were around, we made good inroads," she explained.

Ntokozo Mkhize took 8th place at this year's Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon and has been praised as a potential Comrades Marathon winner one day. Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets AC.

"But there are huge challenges you can not generally think of. It is not only about whether they have a safe environment particularly early and late at night because safety is an obvious consideration, nutrition is the second consideration and both are driven by financial support," she told those who had gathered to celebrate Hollywoodbets AC's Two Oceans achievements.

In finishing seventh at this year's Totalsports Two Oceans 56km race, Ashworth ran 54km with her club mate Ntokozo Mkhize. In taking eighth place, Mkhize was the first black South African woman across the finish line in a time of 3:48:01, just 23 seconds behind Ashworth. The multiple Comrades Marathon gold medalist believes that proper coaching at a young age is also a major concern.

Ashworth and Mkhize pose for a photo after finishing in 7th and 8th respectively at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon. Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets AC.

"There is an absence of suitable coaching. A lot of people they think they know how, but not really. Unfortunately, aspiring young athletes are influenced by coaches who perhaps don't have good interest at heart or genuinely don't know what they are doing. In terms of addressing those problems what you need are the sponsor and a club that perhaps has an in-house capable coaching mechanism with all sorts of support elite athletes need. Just like Hollywoodbets, where an athlete earns a retainer to support the athlete's lifestyle," she concluded.

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