It was a little hard to take Thabang Mosiako seriously when he said: “I can’t believe I am in this team with these guys.”
This, after all, is a man who was crowned South African half marathon champion back in June, when he showed “these guys” a clean pair of heels via his impressive 60:29 run during the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon, incorporating the national championships.
You only get to understand Mosiako being awestruck when you realise that the “guys” he is referring to are legends of the sport – Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant.
“Stephen Mokoka has always been my inspiration, and role model has always been Stephen – and I like Elroy because we came from the same town (Potchefstroom, where Mosiako went to live at about 10 years old, and where he took his running seriously).
“He (Gelant) was always saying to me ‘Young boy, you are going to be living the dream’. The guy was motivating me, and the other day I read an article in which he was saying ‘We are now learning from Thabang Mosiako’.
How crazy is that?” Not so crazy if you look at how hard he has worked to get to where he is.
Mosiako’s victory in June saw him selected for Team South Africa’s fourman unit that will contest the World Half Marathon Championships in Riga, Latvia tomorrow, alongside the two legends Mokoka and Gelant, as well as national 10km record holder and former South African half marathon champion Precious Mashele.
Mosiako is a novice at the event, and at 28, the baby of the team.
But his performance back in June has him going to the global event as the country’s best athlete.
It is status he would not have imagined himself carrying not so long ago.
But such are the rewards for hard work, discipline and a respect for one’s craft that Mosiako is expected to play a key role in the country’s quest for a podium finish tomorrow.
@cianoldknow is a rising star set to achieve great things in the sport of running. She is representing the country at the World Half Marathon Championships tomorrow and here is why she will shine in Riga, Latvia.@AthleticsSA_ @sportmansa https://t.co/O0bEWi3cux— Matshelane Mamabolo (@Tshiliboy) September 29, 2023
The father of two admits, though, that he will be reliant on the experience of Mokoka and Gelant, as well as Mashele, who competed at the 2019 event in Poland.
“Honestly, I am excited, but I am also a bit nervous because it will be my first time, a new experience...
“Of course, I’ve watched the World Champs in the past, when they went to Poland (2019) and Mokoka broke the South African half marathon record. That race motivated me a lot.
“Stephen is a true role model to us, and it is so exciting to run with him. I’ve learnt so much since I started running against him from back in 2017, on the track and later on the road.
“And to be in this national team with him, I know he will be guiding us and motivating us to run until the finish, even if our legs would be feeling like they are tired and cannot go any longer.”
At the national championships, Mokoka finished a distant fourth – some 26 seconds behind Mosiako – while Gelant came seventh in 61:30.
Mosiako credited his brilliant showing then to his having teamed up with the renowned Gqeberha coach Michael Mbambani.
“Training with Bra Mike, yoh, yoh – I don’t know what to say. The man is a legend, we all know that. I get excited about training here in PE. It has really improved my running.
“I have improved my times in the 5 000m, the 10km and the half marathon. The training group is doing amazing things – the motivation, the happiness and the support is incredible.”
That, plus the excitement of running with his role model Mokoka and the man who encouraged him early on in his career, Gelant, are sure to see Mosiako tackle the World Championship with a lot of confidence.
He also gained a lot of it from finishing third in his last race – the Hollywoodbets Durban 10km – before the trip to Latvia.
“I’m happy, it was a good run. I came here to check my speed, and I am pleased with it,” he said after his 28:07 run. “Now for the World Championships.”