Johannesburg - There can be no denying that Precious Mashele is a fantastic running talent. The Boxer Athletic Club athlete’s achievements in the past year confirmed his standing as one of the country’s top runners.
And one of those was his dethroning of Stephen Mokoka as the national half marathon champion.
It was a run for the ages out in Gqeberha that the lad from Ga-Maraba in Limpopo dished out to beat the man he calls his role model. With Mokoka seemingly set to win, Mashele sped up to stun the running legend in the final 5000m and win in 61:17. That he later won the 10km national championships and represented the country in the 5000m at the Tokyo Olympics confirmed just how brilliant a year he had.
This year Mashele held on to his 5000m title at the Track and Field Championships in Cape Town in March.
The big question now is whether he can defend his half marathon crown next weekend in Gqeberha when the 2022 ASA Half Marathon Championships take place in the Windy City that is renowned for producing fast times.
To retain his title, Mashele will not only have to contend with Mokoka but with a huge number of quality athletes who will be eager to be crowned champions.
His Central Gauteng Athletics team should dominate the championship. Desmond Mokgobu, Gladwin Mzazi, Lucky Mohale and Sibusiso Nzima are nationally renowned and pedigreed runners capable of a victorious run on any given day.
Their neighbours and adversaries Athletics Gauteng North will count on Mokoka to bring the title back home. And his training mates Colen Mulaudzi and Rhegan Mogwai will provide the kind of support that could see him become champion again. Do not, however, rule out local athlete Melikhaya Frans of Eastern Province Athletics – an experienced runner who will be well-versed with the conditions at the Pollock Beach.
The women’s race is going to be just as highly contested, what with the internationals who occupied the podium in Saturday’s Spar Women’s 10km Challenge set to also compete.
Namibia’s Helalia Johannes, who won the race in a world best time of 31:53, has remained in the country to run the half marathon. Her manager Nick Bester of Nedbank Running Club said that the Ethiopian duo of Tadu Nare and Selam Gabre who finished second and third respectively will also be in the race.
It makes for a tough challenge for SA champion Glenrose Xaba who sat out the Spar event in favour of being fresh for the ASA Championships.
Xaba ran a PB to win the 10 000m at the ASA National Track and Field Championships in Cape Town shortly after the Easter weekend.
She will be determined to remain the half marathon queen and on the evidence of her form she should be able to do that. Not that the likes of national marathon champion Janet Mbhele of KwaZulu-Natal Athletics will simply roll over and let her succeed.
Central Gauteng Athletics’ Lebo Phalula ran a 33:33 in the Spar race on Saturday and will be in positive mood going into the half marathon.
While Boxer Athletics teammates Mashele and Xaba are favourites to defend their titles, rule out the possibilities of winners coming from left field, as was the case at the ASA Marathon Championships, at your peril.