“It is shorter, so it will be faster throughout the race, but we are well prepared,” Bong’musa Mthembu said. Photo: BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The South African team will not be satisfied with anything but gold at the IAU 50km World Championships in Romania on Sunday.

A strong 12-member squad, consisting of men’s and women’s teams, will be spearheaded by current Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi.

The team’s trump card is three-time Comrades winner Bong’musa Mthembu, who won silver and bronze at the last two World 100km Championships.

They will be joined by former Comrades champion David Gatebe.

“It is shorter, so it will be faster throughout the race, but we are well prepared,” Mthembu said.

“We are looking for individual medals as well as the team prize, so we will see.”

Team manager Nick Bester said they would be disappointed if the team did not return with medals on both the men’s and women’s side.

“This year I have big aspirations for the men’s team. I don’t want to put pressure on them, but logically, we are in for a chance at a gold medal, individually and as a team,” Bester said.

“We have a couple of ladies that can maybe achieve a podium position, but as a team, we’ve got the depth.

“We are one of the few nations sending a full team consisting of six men and six women. That is where our strength is.”

The South African ultra-distance team have earned podium places at the last two editions of the IAU 100km World Championships.

They will be looking to win their first medal at the 50km edition since Sandile Ngunuza won silver in the men’s race in Galway, Ireland in 2010.

Salome Cooper will be leading the women’s team that includes Fikile Mbuthuma, Tanith Maxwell, Deanne Horn, Ntombisuntu Mfunzi and Yolande McLean.

Mbuthuma, Horn, Collett and Cooper were part of the team that won silver at last year’s 100km championships, and they will be looking improve on that performance.

“The difference will be that the ladies team last year ran together for 60 kilometres, and only after that we split up, but we finished quite close to each other,” Cooper said.

“This is half the distance, and I don’t think that is going to happen again. I think the race will start faster.

“What will count in our favour is that our ladies will all finish, and we have ladies that can finish on the podium.”

Cooper said they expected a strong challenge from the American team, who boast a few athletes with good marathon times.

@ockertde


The Star

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