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Leanne Jansen and Gugu Mbonambi
JUBILANT shouts of “Viva South Africa! Viva Mzansi!” echoed around the Comrades Marathon finish line yesterday as SA’s Ludwick Mamabolo clinched first place.
Mamabolo broke a seven-year foreign stranglehold on the race.
And, blazing hot on his heels, just over a minute behind, was 29-year-old Bong’musa Mthembu from KwaZulu-Natal.
The top five comprised three South Africans, with five featuring in the top 10.
But it was 35-year-old Mamabolo, a former Absa sales consultant, who took all the glory, collapsing after the finish line. He finished in a time of 5 hours 31 minutes 3 seconds.
Soon after getting up, Mamabolo was bowing to the crowd, and even performed a little victory dance.
“I’m very grateful that after seven years, a South African won the race… It’s a dream come true for me.”
Mamabolo bagged R300 000 in prize money.
Asked how he would be spending it, a deadpan Mamabolo said: “I have to sit down with my minister, my wife. She’s my minister of finance.”
His wife, Lerato, who admitted that she had prayed feverishly for the duration of the 89km down run, sported a permanent smile after the finish.
“I’m very proud of my husband; I’m so overwhelmed. I encouraged him to work hard and to pray.”
“Pleased” runner-up Mthembu, while satisfied with his result, vowed that next year he would take the Comrades title.
Russian Elena Nurgalieva took the honours in the women’s race for the seventh time.
Three South Africans – Kerry Koen (sixth), Melanie van Rooyen (ninth) and Julanie Basson (10th) – finished in the top 10.