Namibian Helalia Johannes annihilated the opposition in this year’s Grand Prix 10km Series. Photo: Reg Caldecott

JOHANNESBURG – Namibian road running superstar Helalia Johannes believes runners from Southern Africa have it in them to compete on an even footing with the dominant east Africans.

Johannes, who annihilated the opposition in this year’s Grand Prix 10km Series and pocketed the R185 000 winner’s cheque at the awards ceremony this week, won the bronze medal in the marathon at the world championships in Doha in September.

It was from that experience that the Nedbank Athletic Club runner realised that the east Africans are not invincible.

“They are human beings just like us. They get tired like we do. We just need to work on discipline as that is where we are lacking. We also need dedication as athletes and listen to our coaches all the time. We can be able to conquer athletes from east Africa by doing that,” Johannes said.

While she won all six races and broke records with consummate ease, Johannes said South African athletes had shown an improvement during this year’s Grand Prix Series.

“The times that they were running shows that they are closing the gap every time they run the race,” she said.

Johannes has no plans to retire anytime soon. “My legs are still going strong at 38 (years of age). I will continue to run until the legs say no but for now it will be business as usual,” said Johannes.

Helalia Johannes believes Southern Africa runners can compete on an even footing with East Africans. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix
Helalia Johannes believes Southern Africa runners can compete on an even footing with East Africans. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix

Her next big race is the half marathon in China early next year. “I will invest the money that I won at Spar. I will start training with my coach Robert for the half marathon in Asia. I am planning to win it and open that new year on a high,” Johannes said.

Johannes was the first runner to claim maximum points in the Grand Prix Series, finishing with a total of 180 points. Johannes also smashed her own Namibian 10km record several times and shortly before the final race of the Grand Prix Series in Johannesburg, she won a bronze medal at the world championships.

Ethiopian junior, Tadu Nare (Nedbank), came second in the Grand Prix Series with a total of 151 points and bagged R65 000. Nare finished second in Port Elizabeth, third in Cape Town, second in Durban, Tshwane, and Pietermaritzburg and fourth in Johannesburg. She earned bonus points for finishing faster than the previous winning time in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Nare also wrapped up the junior category in stunning fashion, earning the maximum 40 points from the four races that counted for the Grand Prix Series.

The 2017 Grand Prix Series winner, Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) was third, with 122 points and banked a cheque for R40 000.

Mbongiseni Buthelezi