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April sits champs out

Already qualified for the Olympic Games in London this year, defending champion Lusapho April will not be competing at Sunday’s SA Marathon Championships, leaving the road open for anybody to claim the title.

In fact the Border athlete will not run a marathon before the Games taking place in August this year.

April ran three marathons in 2011, finishing well within the 2hr 15min 00sec A-Standard marathon Olympic qualifying time and according to coach Karin Zimmerman, will be taking it easier to prevent a repeat of 2011 when he struggled with an injury after the previous championships and everything will be done to avoid a similar situation.

April triumphed in George last year (2:13:21) and then added a spectacular victory to his list less than a month later in Hannover, Germany where for the first time in his marathon career he dipped under the 2:10:00 mark, crossing the line in 2:09:25.  At the end of October he completed the Frankfurt marathon, which was an Olympic qualifying race, in 2:11:09 (20th place).

April is the third of five athletes that have already run the qualifying time for the marathon. The others include Steven Mokoka (2:10:29), Coolboy Ngamole (2:10:43), Hendrick Ramaala (2:12:22) and Othaniel Phahlane (2:14:55).

With the SA Marathon Championships being an Olympic qualifying race, lots of athletes will have their eyes on the big prize.┬á Not only will a fast time be in the back of most athletes’ minds, but the title of SA marathon champion and R50┬á000 is a pretty carrot to dangle.

Coolboy Ngamole from Central North West, the runner up of the 2011 Championships (2:14:29) and winner of the 2010 Championships (2:16:19) also competed in Daegu at the World Championships and his experience could prove to be vital.

Ngamole ended 2011 on a high note.  He ran in Valencia at the end of November where he finished sixth in a new personal best time of 2:10:43 and just over four minutes faster than the 2:15:00 Olympic Qualifying A-Standard time.

Teammate David Ngakane is also a possible contender.  His best performance in 2011 was the Pyongyang marathon in April where he dramatically improved his 2:23:31 finish (15th place) in George to a third place finish in North Korea.  He crossed the line in 2:15:31 and added a new personal best behind his name.

In 2011 he won the Soweto Marathon in 2:19:04.  The 25 year-old Michael Mazibuko from Central Gauteng will most likely finish in the top 10 on Sunday.

Raphael Segodi and Johannes Kekana, both from Central Gauteng, could also make things a bit more difficult for any athlete looking for victory. Kekana finished fifth (2:17:31) in 2011 in George.  Kekana and Segodi both competed at the Soweto Marathon in November with Segodi ending fifth in 2:19:44 and Kekana just making the top 10 in 2:22:22

At the 2011 SA Marathon Championships Gauteng North based Otaniel Phahlane’s 2:17:29 secured him a fourth place finish.┬á He started 2012 on a high by running the Mumbai marathon (15 January) where he finished eighth with a new personal best, 2:14:55.

Current SA marathon record holder (2:06:33, 14 February 1999) Gert Thys, recently cleared of doping after a lengthy case, can never be discounted, despite having been absent from marathon running for some time.

The SA Marathon championships will start at the PW Botha College in York Street with the marathon starting at 5.30am.

Defending women’s champion Charn├® Bosman is back to defend her title and hopefully qualify for the Olympics at the same time.


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