Namibian's title but Xaba has X-Factor
The Grand Prix Series, run over six races in different cities, will this year be won by the record-smashing Namibian phenomenon who responds to the call of Helalia Johannes. With non-South Africans allowed to run for prizes for the first time, Johannes has literally owned the series - the Nedbank Namibia starlet winning all the four races completed so far.
She was again in scintillating form in the Pretoria leg in Centurion yesterday as she raced to victory in a very fast time of 32:39 to set a new course record.
Johannes was also a winner in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town as well as in Durban where she ruled in the incredibly fast time of 30:59, a continental record in the distance.
It will take something akin to a miracle for any of the competitors to beat her in the remaining races in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg.
Xaba, who won last year, was the first South African home in Centurion yesterday - albeit some distance behind Johannes in fifth place overall.
She was way down in the rankings prior to yesterday’s race but had said in the build-up that she was confident of sneaking into the top five by the end of the series.
At 24 years of age, the Boxer AC athlete is among the younger generation of the élite female runners in the distance. But she is fast proving herself a pretty strong runner who - if properly taken care of - can go on to greater things.
Just last weekend, she made her half marathon debut at the ASA 21.1km championships out in Port Elizabeth and was the first South African home to earn herself a spot in the Team SA squad that will represent the country at the World Championships in Poland next March.
The petite lass from Mpumalanga is currently based in Pretoria at the Tuks High Performance Centre and is very lucky to be training with the running phenomenon that is Stephen Mokoka. And based on her great runs, she is clearly picking up the lessons from the national half marathon and marathon champion.
For one she knows that she has to properly pace herself and not rush into racing the longer distances as most local athletes have done to their detriment. Shy and soft spoken she nevertheless nurses dreams and hopes of not only being a South African superstar but to shining on the global stage.
I spent some time with her this past week and was left in awe of her single-mindedness with regards to her goals and could not help but hope that she gets proper guidance and support towards her goals.
She is of course well looked after at her club Boxer as well as her technical sponsors Nike but a little more help from corporate South Africa will not do her any harm, especially if we are to have her ensure that the likes of Johannes do not continue to dominate our races the way she has this year.
Granted the kind of competition brought on by the foreign brigade such as Johannes and Ethiopia’s Tadu Nare, who finished second in Centurion yesterday, will only help pull the locals up. But there is also a need for the likes of Xaba to run overseas where they will be exposed to a much higher level of competition so they can improve.@Tshiliboy
Independent on Sunday