Matshelane Mamabolo
Nick Bester’s excitement ahead of next Sunday’ IAU 50km World Championships is easy to understand.

South Africa is taking a very strong squad to Brasov, Romania where they have an excellent chance of reigning supreme - particularly in the men’s race. The six squad members are seasoned campaigners with an incredible pedigree and should be able to do well as a team to challenge for honours.

Even individually, the men are capable of getting into podium positions and it actually would be a travesty if they were not to feature.

Just look at the names of the men Bester has the pleasure of managing: Bongmusa Mthembu, Edward Mothibi, David Gatebe, Lungile Gongqa, Charles Tjiane and Joseph Manyedi. That, to the uninitiated, is the country’s ultra running royalty. The Rolls Royce of distance running in South Africa.

Granted they are on the world stage and that is always a big challenge. But just as when Barcelona go into the Champions League or even the Fifa Club World Cup, their fans always anticipate that they will bring home the title.

The discerning road running enthusiast will know just why excitement abounds ahead of Team SA’s departure for Romania on Thursday.

The Japanese are likely to pose the biggest threat to Team SA’s chances of bringing home gold. But on their day, Bester’s half dozen can beat all comers. Mthembu, for one, has the pedigree of great runs on the world stage - the Arthur Ford superstar having had a podium finish at the World 100km Championships.

The man from Bulwer is in great form this year, having won the 56km Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and coming a very close second in Comrades Marathon where he was chasing a hat-trick. Mthembu no doubt will lead the South African charge given his international experience. And he will do so knowing full well that he has great men around him.

For one there is Mothibi, the speedster who dethroned him earlier this year. 'Slender', as he is known, showed just what a great athlete he is with that consummate run in June and nothing will announce him to the world better than a fantastic run in Romania.

It is Tjiane though who is a 50km specialist. A three-time winner of the 50km Loskop Marathon, the Maxed Elite veteran is excited to finally be going to an international race and he will want to put his name up in lights. Joseph Manyedi had a brilliant run in the very tough and hilly Om Die Dam Ultra (50km) and what is sure to be a flat course in Brasov, bet on him to shine bright.

David Gatebe is renowned for his speed and having ran Mthembu close at Two Oceans he played a great role in helping Mothibi win Comrades as he set the pace early on and broke the rest of the competitors’ spirits. He finished way behind but still ran his Up Run PB and you can bet he will give the rest of the competition a good run for their money. Gongqa is a former Two Oceans champion who will want to use this opportunity of representing his country to show that he remains a great ultra runner.

There is every good reason to believe Team SA will do well in Romania. Bester has no doubt they will arrive there as potential gold medallists and individual podium finishers.

The women's team, meanwhile, are no slouches and Bester believes they can challenge for bronze.

@tshiliboy


Sunday Independent

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