‘Smiling Assassin’ kills Comrades

Gerda Steyn of South Africa easily won her third Comrades title yesterday in record time. | BackpagePix

Gerda Steyn of South Africa easily won her third Comrades title yesterday in record time. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024



AND now for the Olympics! There is just no rest for Gerda Steyn, is there?

No sooner had she produced yet another incredible run to win a third Comrades Marathon title than she was switching her focus to the next goal. Such is the life of a phenomenal athlete.

Steyn reigned victorious with consummate ease on Sunday, the Phantane Athletics Club runner crossing the finish line at the Scottsville Racecourse in a blistering fast time of 5:49:46 in the 85.91km distance. The time was faster than the 5:58:53 she set back in 2019 on the Up-Run, which was a little longer and thus won herself the best time.

Earlier this year, Gerda Steyn won an unprecedented fifth consecutive Two Oceans title. | BackpagePix

The “Smiling Assassin” also ran the race in the fastest average pace ever to help herself to close on a cool R2 million in total winnings. Delighted by her victory, Steyn had to already start thinking about the last of her three major goals for this season.

“To be here after the Two Oceans (which she won for an unprecedented fifth time in yet another record), I can’t say anything other than I am so grateful and humbled to be able to build on last year, which I felt was my best year yet,” Steyn said during the post-race media conference.

“It has never been done before that an athlete ran Comrades and the Olympics (in the same year). I am fully committed to doing my absolute best and representing South Africa in Paris.”

Steyn is going to represent South Africa for the second time at the Games, having run the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics. And she has her mind set on doing better than the 15th place she finished in three years ago.

“I am fully aware of the class of athletes that go to the Olympics. I know where my performance is in terms of the rest of the world so I want to be logical about my position,” Steyn explained.

“I want to improve my position from Tokyo. I finished 15th, which is the highest position by a South African (female). So to improve on that position would be a great honour.”


And she knows that she has to start working on readying herself for a shift into a different kind of race from the ultras that she has excelled in this year – Steyn setting records in both the 50km Om Die Dam Marathon as well as the 56km Two Oceans. And yesterday, she added the Comrades best time.

“I’ve already written my training programme for the Olympics, I’ve sat down with myself and planned it. The (Olympic) race (route) is hilly and will count in my favour.

“(Because of the) training for Two Oceans and Comrades, my stamina and endurance is good. So I will just be focusing on speed and track workouts for the challenge of the Olympics.”

To that effect, she will be travelling to France for training and she has no plans to do any more racing. And why should she when she had such an incredible race yesterday, when she obliterated the opposition so much that the runner-up – Alexandra Morozova – was a good 15 minutes and some change behind her.

“The race went very well,” Steyn beamed.

“I started quite fast to give myself an opportunity to break the record. I had to take into consideration how I felt to maintain that pace. When I got to the halfway mark, I knew I was still strong, so it was an incredibly magical day.

“There was so much support from kilometre one to 86 and I feel very appreciative of the support. My performance was not personal but for everyone who supports me.”

Piet Wiersma of the Netherlands won the Comrades men’s race on Sunday BackpagePix

Meanwhile, Dutchman Piet Wiersma won the men’s race after he finished an agonising second in last year’s Down Run. The Nedbank Running Club athlete clocked 5:25:50 and was 11 seconds out from the Up-Run best time set by Leonid Shvetsov in 2008.

In a podium cleansweep for the Green Machine, South Africa’s Dan Matshailwe was a runner-up 45 seconds later, while Ethiopian debutant Yohannesse Lafebo took third in 5:27:48. The day, however, belonged to Steyn, whose performance is sure to have South Africa dreaming of a first-ever women’s medal from the Olympics marathon.