Sibusiso Nzima was part of Team South Africa at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Sibusiso Nzima remains hopeful of qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games despite the fact that three runners have already earned their tickets to Tokyo 2020.

Nzima, who was part of Team South Africa at the Rio 2016 Games, has vowed to dig deep and ensure he goes back to the greatest sporting spectacle for the second time.

“I want to better the time run by the guys who have already qualified in order to earn a place in the team. I believe I can do it, it is possible. I need to shuffle that team with a great time overseas.”

The other guys Nzima is referring to are Stephen Mokoka, Elroy Gelant and Desmond Mokgobu who have already ran qualifying times.

Mokoka booked his place with a splendid run at the World Championships in Doha while Mokgobu earned his ticket with victory at the Beppu-Pita Marathon in Japan. Gelant had a great run at the SA Marathon Championships during the Cape Town Marathon.

South African runner Elroy Gelant took the 4th spot in the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town marathon as well as the 2019 SA marathon title. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

“Stephen ran great time in Doha. Elroy got a good time finishing in front of me in Cape Town Marathon where I was the second South African by finishing in 10th position. Mokgothu ran well overseas. All of them they deserve to be there,” Nzima said.

He believes, however, that he too has to be there - if only to improve on his 97th place finish from the previous Games in Brazil where he ran two hours, 25 minutes and 33 seconds.

This time around, he needs to run a 2:11.30 if he is to be a part of Team South Africa’s marathon gang once again.

And with just three places in the team, Nzima, who ran 2:13.31 in Cape Town, definitely has his work cut out for him.

“It was sad to miss out on the Olympic (qualifying) time in that Cape Town race but I was happy with my performance overall,” he said.

“I will be looking for a race to run in March next year that will help me to qualify for the Olympics again.

“It is likely to be in Spain but we are still working on that with my management team,” said Nzima.

He admitted that he would have to sacrifice the festive season to achieve his dream.

“It will come at a price. Nothing comes easily. Next year is a very big year because of the Olympics. All the athletes are looking forward to it. We will all be working hard to achieve our Olympic dream.

“I will not have Christmas as I will be hard at work. My fitness will have to be such that I will be able to do well enough in the overseas race to get Olympic qualification.”

Mbongiseni Buthelezi