Cian Oldknow chases Olympic dream after second-fastest marathon

South African athlete Cian Oldknow after crossing the finish liine in a road race

File. Cian Oldknow and her coach, George Bradley, had trained for her to achieve the requisite 2:26:50 to be in line for a place in the Olympic team. Picture supplied.

Published Feb 24, 2024


“I Did it. 2:25:08 for the Seville Marathon. Olympic qualifying time and second-fastest SA lady ever.”

Cian Oldknow’s delight knew no bounds last Sunday after she completed only her second standard marathon just a minute and five seconds slower than Gerda Steyn’s national record. And the Hollywood Athletic Club starlet took to her social media to share her excitement.

“Sill on cloud 9,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter. How she would love to stay there, her time currently guaranteeing her a spot in South Africa’s three-woman team for the marathon at the Paris Olympics taking place later this year.

But with the likes of her teammate Irvette van Zyl and Us-based Dominique Scott chasing the Olympic dream, the 27-year-old knows nothing is cast in stone just yet.

Sweet relief

“I am so happy to have secured a ticket to the Olympics, although qualification can still happen for the other ladies who are still trying to, but we will do what we need to do,” she said.

The risk of having the proverbial rug pulled from under her feet, however, did not dampen Oldknow’s spirits as she celebrated her achievement.

“My race experience was amazing,” she chimed. “Everything went according to plan. I could not have asked for a better experience out there. The marathon can be touch-and-go because it is such a long race. Anything can go wrong and I am so grateful that it went according to plan.”

Oldknow and her coach, George Bradley, had trained for her to achieve the requisite 2:26:50 to be in line for a place in the Olympic team and, having clocked a 2:39 training run at the Johnson’s Crane Marathon in Benoni last month, she went to Spain confident of achieving her objective.

“I paced my race well. The plan was to run at 3:26 (minutes per kilometre) and I managed to do just that.”

Renowned for her track (5 000m and 10000m) and cross-country exploits, though lately she has shone in the half-marathon, Oldknow’s great run would have caught most running enthusiasts by surprise.

But the athlete and her coach have been working towards this for a while: “I’ve long said to my mom ‘I really want to go to the Olympics’ and we knew I could get it. And I’d worked really, really hard in the last few years to get to this. Coach Bradley has really helped put the pieces together for me to get to where I am today.”

Paris awaits

In the past year, she has represented the country at the World Cross-country Championships and World Half-marathon and will represent Mzansi at the All Africa Games in Accra, Ghana, next month.

Nothing excites her more than the prospect of lining up at the start of the marathon in Paris on the greatest sporting stage of all – the Olympics.

“It is such an amazing feeling to know that I could represent South Africa at the Olympics.”

It will be even more amazing if Oldknow can hold on to her spot in the marathon team and race at the Olympics in Paris.