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Olympic duo take on all-comers in Port Elizabeth race

London Olympians Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl will line up with most of South Africa’s top runners at the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Pollock Beach in Port Elizabeth on Saturday ÔÇô and the race for Grand Prix points is wide open.

The Grand Prix leader after the first race in Cape Town in March is Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya, who came second to Rutendo Nyahora of Nedbank AGN.┬á However, Nyahora is from Zimbabwe, and does not qualify for the Grand Prix, in which the top runners collect points from the five Challenge races held around the country. After one race, Makhanya has 19 points, and third placed Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite WP) has 13.

However, Makhanya and Xiniwe will be aware that they have strong competition for Grand Prix points from Nedbank CG teammates Kalmer and Van Zyl, who have 17 and 16 points respectively.

Kalmer, who has won the Grand Prix three times, recently returned to competitive running after a long lay-off because of an Achilles tendon injury sustained during the Olympic Marathon in London last year. Although she finished fourth in the Cape Town race, she showed signs that she was well on her way to her dominant best. She issued a warning to her rivals after the Cape Town race, saying she expected to be back at her best for the Port Elizabeth race, and that she was determined to win the Grand Prix again.

Since the Cape Town race she has run the Boston Marathon where she ran 2hr 37min.

Van Zyl, who has won the Grand Prix twice, is also in good form.┬áShe was 10th woman home in the London Marathon and can be expected to give a good account of herself in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. ÔÇ£I was very pleased with my performance in the London Marathon, although I found the last eight kilometres very tough,ÔÇØ said Van Zyl. ÔÇ£I’ve had some trouble with numbness in my leg, and in the last few kilometres I was struggling with a sore knee and a blister.┬á But I had a personal best and I enjoyed the marathon much more than I did last year.ÔÇØ

Van Zyl said she expected a fierce struggle for top place, and a fast time in Port Elizabeth. ÔÇ£The other girls are going to give us a hard time.┬áPatterns have changed in the SPAR races ÔÇô it’s no longer a case of just going into the lead and staying there. There is very strong competition and Mapaseka, for example, is in very good shape. ÔÇ£I think people are even more excited about the SPAR races, after seeing Rene win a car last year. Now everyone wants to get their hands on those car keys.ÔÇØ

At the end of the five-race series, the runner with most points will win a Nissan Micra. The second-placed athlete receives R30 000.


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