The podium at the weekend's 2019 IAU 50 Km World Championship. Photo: @iaunews on twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Aleck Skhosana was understandably a relieved man following Sunday’s IAU 50km World Championships in Brasov, Romania where Team South Africa reigned supreme.

The Athletic South Africa (ASA) president had boldly proclaimed that the South African men’s team he was sending to the event was the best the country had ever put together.

True to their president’s words, captain Bongmusa Mthembu and his five teammates brought home the title of champions following a splendid run that saw three of them make the top six finish.

“To be honest, it would have been hard to swallow if the team I described as the best ever selected had failed. So, this achievement is in line with our sentiment that ultra-marathons are our speciality. Well done guys, you have done us proud,” Skhosana said in a statement.

He had instructed the athletes to bring home podium finishes both as individuals and as teams. And they did exactly that.

That the men’s team won gold in arguably the most competitive championship ever was because of the splendid runs by Lungile Gongqa, Edward Mothibi and Bongmusa Mthembu who finished second, fifth and sixth overall respectively.

The race saw 17 runners dip under the three hour mark, with Joseph Manyedi among those in 11th position, to bring a huge smile to Skhosana’s face.

“We applaud the team for delivering on its mandate. We demanded podium finishes in individual and team level and it has happened,” the president said.

Gongqa was a big surprise given he had been under the radar in the build-up, the former Two Oceans champion not having won any major event recently, unlike most of his teammates.

But it was perhaps because he was fresh and also hungry to show his worth that the Capetonian shone brightest by bagging a silver medal.

The rest of the men went to Romania on the back of some great local runs that had most expecting them to do very well. Comrades Marathon champion Mothibi showed just why he was the best at the world famous KwaZulu/Natal ultra with a fifth place finish in 2:49:49. Mthembu, champion at Two Oceans this year and a runner-up at Comrades, was sixth in 2:50:23.

Perhaps most disappointed would have been the duo of David Gatebe and Charles Tjiane who finished back in 21st and 30th respectively.

Gatebe is renowned for his speed and was second behind Mthembu at Two Oceans as well as having been instrumental in Mothibi’s Comrades win by helping break the chasing pack with a set of fartleks deep into the race. While he finished 20th at Comrades, the Down Run record holder ran his Up Run PB in June.

Tjiane is a 50km specialist of sorts and won the Loskop Dam Ultra of that distance this year and expectations were that he would be at an advantage given his speed.

Not that Skhosana was complaining...



The Star

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