JOHANNESBURG – It is these kind of near misses many athletes struggle to move on from, but Stephen Mokoka is made up of sterner stuff and you can bet he will be stronger for the experience and use it positively going forward.
The South African champion missed out on a podium finish in the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha late on Saturday night when it had appeared he would make history and get the country its maiden medal in the event.
Granted, fifth position is the best placing by a South African in the 42.2km race at the global showpiece, but Mokoka is unlikely to be consoled by that - not when he had looked so good to challenge for the title after sticking with the initial six-man breakaway group that took over from initial leader Derlis Ayala of Paraguay, who sped away from the outset.
When the south American faded and eventually pulled out of the race, Eritrea’s Zersany Tedase set the pace for Mokoka’s group, that included defending champion Geoffrey Kirur of Kenya and his compatriot Amos Kipruto, and the Ethiopian duo of Lelisa Desisa and Mosinet Geremew who finished first and second respectively.
In a tactical race that saw no one really keen to take control, Mokoka often made surges to try and break the group but always looked comfortable with the leaders.