JOHANNESBURG – To become a champion, sports experts often say, is easy. The challenge - they argue - is to repeat the feat, to hold on to the title.
Do that and you are sure to be revered. And so it is that those who win particular events on more than two successive occasions are afforded the status of legends.
Stephen Mokoka’s hat-trick in the ASA 21.1km Championships in Port Elizabeth at the weekend no doubt put the seal on the highly-decorated athlete’s greatness.
Typically, the man from Mahikeng in the North West took it all in his stride - Mokoka putting his victory down to “hard work”.
At 34, Mokoka is one of the older runners in the half marathon but his performances belied his age as he continues to show the younger generation his heels.
He won Saturday’s race by a good four seconds ahead of Elroy Gelant, his time of 60:55 bettering that of last year by some 48 seconds.
Precious Mashele came in third, a huge improvement on his seventh place last year. Mashele’s teammate Desmond Mokgobu came sixth behind John Mmone and Mbuleli Mathanga.
Mobii Timing tech powered today's SA #Half #Marathon Champs in Port Elizabeth, won by Stephen Mokoka in 1:00:56! #mobii #run #running #runner #fitness #sport #sports #race #racing #timing #technology #IT #photo pic.twitter.com/r5gQs0P6Hq— Mobii Timing (@mobiitiming) July 27, 2019
“It was a very tough race. There are lots of young boys who are coming up through the ranks and they are putting on the pressure. So I just have to continue working hard, to train and hope that on the day the plan comes together as it did on Saturday.”
The victory marked the sixth time Mokoka has become the country’s half marathon champion in addition to him also being king in the full marathon.
He will once again lead the country’s charge at the world championships in Doha later this year, Mokoka having also been part of Team South Africa at the 2012 Olympics in London.
“I am driven by my desire to create a legacy, to leave a mark. My hope is that one day I am recognised and remembered as one of the best (athletes) there has been.
“As an individual I want to be one of the best in the world. And it is for this reason that I enjoy running in the national championships because they provide the platform for me to go test myself against those other guys,” he said after the race.
Testing himself against the world’s best is something Mokoka has been doing since his university days and he boasts medals - a gold, two silvers and a bronze - from the Univesidae (world university championships).
His graduation to the road from the track was no surprise to those who had followed his career closely and the fact that he continues to dominate the local scene at half marathon level is testament to his talent.@Tshiliboy