Johannesburg – Elroy Gelant admits he struggled in the shorter race on Saturday, but he is delighted to have secured a historic double at the SA Cross Country Championships in Potchefstroom.
Gelant, representing host province Central North West, became the first person to win the senior men's 4km and 12km titles at the national championships in Potchefstroom.
He was able to conserve a bit of energy in the longer event, despite finishing 48 seconds ahead of Central Gauteng's Dericious Makhobalo, which enabled him to grab another gold medal in the shorter race.
“It was very tough, but I was able to save myself a bit in the 12km race because the likes of Stephen Mokoka and Gladwin Mzazi were not there,” Gelant said on Sunday.
“I didn't really know most of the guys in the 12km, but I knew there were a few guys who would give me a push in the 4km, so I saved some energy.”
After battling in the first half of the shorter race, with the effects of the gruelling 12km event still in his legs, he edged clear in the closing stages.
Gelant crossed the line in 11:55 to beat training partner Mthobisi Baloyi, who bagged the silver medal in 12:07, with Marko Bucarizza of Central Gauteng taking third place in 12:08.
“I just held on for the first 2km, and I felt a bit better in the second half,” he said.
“I'm very happy to have won both titles.”
While he grabbed a sterling double at the weekend, Gelant said he would not consider running the 5 000m and 10 000m events at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and would focus on the shorter distance.
The 27-year-old narrowly missed Shadrack Hoff's 18-year-old national 5 000m record of 13:14.16 twice this season, clocking a career best of 13:15.87 in Heusden-Zolder in July, and was less than 12 seconds outside Hendrick Ramaala's 14-year-old 10 000m mark of 27:29.94 when he ran 27:41.30 in Durban in April.
“I'm starting to get a rhythm in the 5 000m. I ran 13:15 and 13:16 this year,” Gelant said.
“I'm going to try and focus on a really good performance in the 5 000m at the Commonwealth Games, so I won't try the double.”
Meanwhile, Lebo Phalula of Central Gauteng coasted to victory in the women's 8km race in Potchefstroom, finishing in 29:45.
Teammate Nolene Conrad, the defending champion, took second place in 30:37, with SA marathon champion Cornelia Joubert securing bronze, a further seven seconds behind, as Central Gauteng secured a clean sweep.
Thembi Baloyi of Gauteng North won the women's 4km title in 14:07, well ahead of Central Gauteng's Keneilwe Sesing, who grabbed silver in 14:51, with Thisaamba Ravhandalala, also representing Gauteng North, taking third position in 14:58. – Sapa