Belarus' Maryna Damantsevich looks on after finishing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics women's marathon. Photo: REUTERS/David Gray

CAPE TOWN - Caroline Wöstmann finally broke the Eastern European stranglehold on the winner’s trophy for top woman in the Two Oceans Marathon in 2015, but leading Belarusian Maryna Damantsevich is looking to restore the balance in Saturday’s 56km ultra-marathon. 

Russian athletes have taken line honours at “Oceans” on no fewer than eleven occasions since 2002, with Hungarian Simone Staicu adding to the East European tally with a win in 2003. It would have been twelve to Russia, but Natalia Volgina, who started the ball rolling with a 3:38:02 victory in 2002, was stripped of her title in 2013, elevating Zimbabwean runner-up, Thabita Tsatsa, into pole position.

In 2004 Elena Nurgalieva began an extraordinary sequence in which either she or her twin sister, Olesya, tasted Oceans success, doing so on seven occasions between 2004 and 2012. Olesya won on three occasions, her fastest time of 3:33:58 in 2011 coming closest to Frith van der Merwe’s course record of 3:30:36.

Tatyana Zirkhova (2006), Madina Biktagirova (2007) and Nina Podnebesnova (2014) were the other Russian champions during this period, and it appeared that Podnebesnova had also sewn up the 2015 title, before Wöstmann ran her down in the latter stages with a flying finish.

Russia’s hopes of regaining Oceans glory were dashed when the IAAF banned their athletes from competing internationally following revelations of wide-spread doping in that country, with Wöstmann having to overcome a tenacious Capetonian, Tanith Maxwell, before winning her second title.

With the Comrades Marathon just 7 weeks after the Two Oceans this year, it is likely that several athletes, Wöstmann included, will either regard the Oceans as a training run or miss it entirely, leaving Maxwell a promising path to glory and completing a “3-2-1” sequence of Two Oceans positions.

But Damantsevich’s entry changes that, with the strong-running Belarusian arguably the favourite to take the title ahead of Maxwell and some talented east Africans.

Damantsevich has come to Cape Town with one goal, and that is to win and take home the first prize of R250 000. She boasts a marathon personal best of 2:30:07, set in 2015 and has run a host of sub-2:40s during her career.

When asked if she plans to break the record, her coach Anatoliy Bychkov admitted that the record is extremely tough to break, but "she will be ready for the record next year.”

Cape Times