Bester expects big things from Team SA to 50 km World Champs
JOHANNESBURG – Nick Bester is quietly confident that Team South Africa will do very well at the IAU 50km World Championships in Brasov, Romania next Sunday.
The 12-member team of six men and six women will leave South Africa next Thursday to go and square up with 30 other countries for the title of the best team in the 50km distance.
With just a little over a week before competition day, Bester is delighted that all the runners are fit and peaking just in time for the challenge.
“We are in contact with all the runners and they are doing very well in training. They are all excitedly looking forward to the challenge and they want to represent the country well,” Bester said.
And the former Comrades Marathon champion is in no doubt the team will fly SA’s flag high.
“I’ve looked at the other teams that are participating and I believe the Japanese will be our main competition. They are seemingly very focused on and purposeful in building their ultra-runners. They won both sections of the 100km championships last year and we all know about Nao Kazami’s world-record feat. But the Brits and the Americans will also be pretty tough. I am just glad that Kenya are not sending a team,” Bester chuckled.
While his team is full of great ultra-runners, including three Comrades Marathon champions, and numerous gold medallists of the famous KwaZulu-Natal ultra, Bester explained that his confidence about their chances has more to do with the athletes’ marathon times.
“While it is an ultra, the 50km is a pretty fast race and the focus of the selection (made by an Athletics SA committee) was more on the runners’ marathon times as well as the Two Oceans and the other 50km races (like Om Die Dam),” he said.
“So I believe we have a very strong squad and I predict that we will win gold in the men’s team and our ladies will seriously challenge for the bronze. I am sure some of our men will make the individual podium finishes.”
Three-time Comrades Marathon champion Bongmusa Mthembu goes to the race on the back of a splendid showing at the 100km events and should shine once again. The man who dethroned him as Comrades king, Edward Mothibi is hard in training at the high altitude Dullstroom atmosphere and will no doubt be eager to put the cherry on top of his fabulous year by shining on the world stage.
Bester has been impressed by Ntombe Mfunzi who ran a time of 37 minutes in 10km at the weekend.
“Ntombe is working very hard and is growing from strength to strength. For an ultra-runner to run 37 minutes in the middle of training speaks volumes. She is going to do well. Tanith Maxwell is also in good form following the operation she had in America and I believe our women’s team is strong enough to launch a good challenge in Romania,” Bester said.
SA is the only African country set to participate at the championships and Bester lauded ASA for ensuring a team is being sent to the prestigious event.@Tshiliboy