Thieves violated the spirit of the Comrades Marathon when they broke into a past winner’s van, stole his equipment and then used his hotel card to make off with all his belongings – including his passport.
Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, who came first and second in yesterday’s race, also had their possessions stolen from the car.
Elena is a six-time winner of the marathon and holds the record for the up run which she set in 2006.
Jaroslaw Janicki, the 1999 winner, saw his disappointment at not finishing the gruelling ultra-marathon compounded by the discovery of the smashed glass and theft from his vehicle.
Clothing retailer Mr Price, which sponsors all three runners, confirmed last night that the three had been victims of thieves and that this had been reported to police.
The Comrades Marathon Association has expressed its disappointment. The vice- chairman, Dave Dixon, said it had spoiled the spirit of the race.
The Mr Price team van had been parked at the watering point for runners at the bottom of Fields Hill.
The thieves used Janicki’s key card to enter his hotel room at the North Beach Garden Court Hotel on Durban’s beachfront. All his belongings, including his passport, were stolen. Janicki, 49, has won 12 Comrades medals.
“I am very upset about this,” said Janicki. “It’s been such a long day and then for this to happen; it is very upsetting.”
Graham Daniel, marketing manager of Mr Price, a sponsor of the Comrades Marathon said: “We will do everything we can to help Mr Janicki replace his passport so that he can travel back home.”
Daniel said the Southern Sun Garden Court Hotel had been very helpful in the investigation and were willing to provide CCTV footage in the hope that the criminals would be identified.
The Nurgalieva twins’ cameras, clothing and wallets were stolen.
When the Daily News visited the hotel, police were taking statements from Janicki and the Nurgalieva twins, but hotel staff prevented reporters from entering.
No reason was given despite Janicki consenting to an interview.
Hotel staff later claimed that he was not a guest.
Police spokeswoman Brigadier Phindile Radebe said that she had not yet heard of the incident.
There was agony and ecstasy for the thousands of runners who took part in yesterday’s marathon.
Ntshinogang Gaorongwe, 40, missed the finish line by just three seconds after the gun went off, signalling the end of the race.
Gaorongwe, of Joburg, fell into the arms of Comrades official James Delport.
“I have run the Comrades 26 times. One mostly suffers and you go through pain. When she did not finish and fell into my arms, I became emotional.