Rene Kalmer crosses the line to win the Pretoria leg of the 2012 SPAR Grand Prix. Photo: Reg Caldecott / Gallo Images
JOHANNESBURG - Elite road runners Mapaseka Makhanya and Rene Kalmer are the official patrons of the 2017 SPAR Grand Prix.

The announcement on Tuesday is one of the changes made in this year’s edition of the Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix, which is made up of the five Women’s 10km Challenge races held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Joburg and Pretoria, added the Pietermaritzburg leg, as well as an increase in prize money from R150 000 to R173 000.

The Grand Prix will be open to everyone regardless of nationality (meaning that Zimbabwean elite athlete Ruthendo Nyahora will qualify for the main prize).

Speaking after the announcement, Makhanya, who won the Grand Prix in 2013, said: “I feel blessed to have been chosen as one of the ambassadors of the SPAR Grand Prix, especially alongside three-time Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer.

“It’s really good to be the face of the Grand Prix and motivate other athletes across the country.”

Makhanya also welcomed the changes, particularly that the competition is open to all regardless of nationality.

“I am happy about the changes that have been made. It’s a good thing for Ruthendo Nyahora. She deserves it.

“I feel like she would’ve won the Grand Prix a long time ago if she qualified. She'd been in the top three of some races and won others, so I am happy about this decision.

“It’s about time. Ruthendo deserves this.”

After missing last year’s Cape Town leg of the Grand Prix due to injury, "Speedstar" Makhanya said she was ready to do her best in Sunday’s 10km race.

“My body is ready. Hopefully, I’ll be fine by Sunday.”

The race will start from Green Point Stadium, Cape Town.

Kalmer, who gave birth to daughter Karli two weeks ago, said: “I am very honoured to be a patron of the SPAR Grand Prix.

“I have been unable to run for nearly a year, first because of a hip injury, and then the pregnancy. So I am happy that I am still able to be a part of the SPAR Women’s Challenge Series.”

Kalmer is likely to be back for the Durban leg in June.

The Star