CAPE TOWN – Sunday's Cape Town Marathon could well turn out to be the Hendrick Ramaala show.
Not that the former South African marathon king is planning to turn back the clock and capture the 2018 title of the continent’s only IAAF Gold Label status race.
Far from it, for the man who has also won the coveted New York Marathon in the past admits that Father Time has finally caught up with him.
But Ramaala is confident that his proteges are in the kind of form that could see them return to their training ground at Johannesburg’s Zoo Lake next week as champions.
“I think we have what it takes to win the marathon, the 10km and the junior prize on Sunday,” Ramaala said yesterday. “Our boys are very fit and ready to shine in Cape Town.”
He is talking about Desmond Mokgobu and Michael Mazibuko, in particular. Mokgobu is among the favourites, having previously finished fifth, and Ramaala is in no doubt that the former SA Olympian is in the running.
“Desmond is very fit and really wants to win this time around. If the weather favours us and there is no wind, I have no doubt he can do a 2:08 or 2:09. He has really trained well and his confidence is high,” Ramaala said.
Mazibuko is also in tip-top condition and should be there or thereabouts.
“Mazibuko is looking to improve his standing as an athlete and he’d love to be a gold status athlete and this race gives him that chance. Also, he is keen to qualify for the world championships and he just needs to run a 2:12 to get that. Desmond has already qualified. So there’s a lot for them to race for.”
While he believes his boys have what it takes to win, Ramaala admits that the local man to beat is debutant Stephen Mokoka.
“Of course Stephen is the favourite, he’s a great marathon man. It’s very good that Stephen will be racing this time because our boys will go with him when he makes the break in the race. He’s like a big brother to most of them and his presence will give them confidence to take on the east Africans who have dominated this race,” he said.
“Of course it is a great field but we are not stressed about the competition. We are ready. While the most attention will obviously be on the main marathon, there’s also the 10km Peace Run. For most this will be a mere fun run to help raise funds for their favourite charitable organisations.”
But for Ramaala’s team it will be serious competition and he is placing high expectations on Precious Mashele and youngster Maxime Chaumeton.
“Precious is going to Cape Town to win the 10km. He has done everything necessary and he is in good condition. And then we have Max who should also win the juniors,” Ramaala said.
And will he be improving on his 21st place finish from last year?
“It’s very hard for me now to be competitive because I am now focused on training these boys and not myself.
But I’m very happy to see them shining and competing in these races that will open doors for them to run the great races of the world,” Ramaala said.