Bongmusa Mthembu will be part of Team SA to the IAU 50km World Championship. Photo: Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – With 12 members in their team, South Africa are sending the second biggest squad to the IAU 50km World Championship taking place in Brasov, Romania, on September 1.

Only the host nation will have more participants - 14 runners.

The competition will be contested by 31 countries, with 75 women from 26 countries and 94 men from the same number of nations vying for glory.

Under the guidance of Nick Bester and Xolani Mabhida, South Africa will send a strong squad of six men and six women.

The men’s team should impress given the presence of three Comrades Marathon winners in this year’s champion Edward Mothibi, three-time winner Bongmusa Mthembu and Down Run record holder David Gatebe.

If the men’s team that also includes Charles Tjiane, Lungile Gongqa and Joseph Manyedi is strong, not everyone is chuffed with the women's contingent.

There was some controversy with regards to the strength of the team with some of the view that the runners picked were not necessarily the best - at least not in the most recent season in the ultra distances.

NICK Bester (left) will be one of the coaches of Team SA to the 50km World Championships. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Nick Bester (left) will be one of the coaches of Team SA to the 50km World Championships. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

An article published by Media 24 earlier this month lamented the domination of the squad by Nedbank AC athletes for whom Bester is manager. The insinuation was that favouritism was the criteria for selection.

A strong argument was made that Massmart’s Lizzy Babili should have been selected given her stellar showing in both the 56km Two Oceans Marathon as well as the 87.7km Comrades race. She finished in the top 10 at the Cape Town event and 23rd at Comrades.

Similarly, her teammate Enie Manzini should also have been selected given that she won the Irene 48km Ultra and finished 19th at Comrades - way ahead of some of the athletes who will be going to Romania.

The team that will represent South Africa comprises Salome Cooper, Tanith Maxwell, Yolande Mclean, Fikile Mbuthuma, Ntombe Mfunzi and Deanne Horne.

When asked who selected the 12-member team, Athletics South Africa media officer Sifiso Cele said: “We have a selection committee for road running, whom for obvious reasons we don’t make public.”

Matshelane Mamabolo

The Star

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