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Stephen, Irvette take titles

By Mark Etheridge

In-form Irvette van Blerk added a second national road running title to her list of achievements when she won the national 10-kilometre championships in Paarl on Saturday.

That comes after the 23-year-old won the half-marathon title in Port Elizabeth earlier this year and then the Totalsports Women’s Day 10km in Johannesburg last Monday.

In the men’s race Stephen Mokoka successfully defended his national title on a route designed for quick times and on a day when tailor-made for good times.

Mokoka clocked 28min 23sec to beat Transkie’s Lungisa Mdedelwa by five seconds.

Van Blerk, though, had all but settled for second with a kilometre to go and said she had surprised even herself to win. “It was a real tough race,” she reflected. “This was a race that I knew had given my all. I started off in front and wanted to break but then I saw we had quite a long hill after 3km so thought I must just stick with the girls.

“But then after the hill and when we turned at 5km I really felt tired. Most of the girls were in a bunch except for me , Zintle Xiniwe and Thozama April. Thozama dropped off just before 7km and it was me and Zintle. So I surged at 8km and made a small gap. So I thought to myself then: ‘Great I can win this!’

“Then with just less than a kilometre to run she came flying past me at a heck of a speed and I couldn’t respond at all. So she was about 3m ahead of me and this time I thought there was no way I could win and second would be fine.

“But then as we turned for the stadium with about 200m to go I forced myself to put in one last effort and kicked as hard as I could and it was enough to win and I was also very happy with my time.”

That winning time was 33:15, just three seconds outside her personal best, and she ended four seconds ahead of Western Province’s Xiniwe with April holding on for third in 33:53.

Back to the men’s race and Mokoka told Sapa: “I came to Paarl with the aim of defending my title and getting my hands on the R50 000 financial incentive on offer for dipping under the 28:06 mark.”

“But our leading group of about 15 athletes went through the halfway mark in 14:31 which was too slow as the pace dropped between the 3km to 5km stage. Coming into the final kilometre stretch I produced a strong kick, but the guys countered me, and with 600 metres to go I kicked again using short strides.

“The other leaders weren’t expecting the second kick and failed to react which allowed me to speed ahead and to take the honours.”

Mokoka now turns his attention to the international scene when he lines up for 10km races in Prague and the UK next month.


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