Tete Dijana sets sights on Mothibi, Wiersma at Comrades Marathon up run

Tete Dijana had to hold off the fast-finishing Dutch athlete Piet Wiersma to win last year’s Comrades Marathon. Photo: SIBONELO NGCOBO Independent Newspapers

Tete Dijana had to hold off the fast-finishing Dutch athlete Piet Wiersma to win last year’s Comrades Marathon. Photo: SIBONELO NGCOBO Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 8, 2024


Tete Dijana has revealed why he and Edward Mothibi did not share their bottles of ‘energy drinks’ with Nedbank Running Club mate Piet Wiersma during last year’s Comrades Marathon.

“Would you give your enemy a gun to shoot you?” Dijana asked members of the Midrand Striders during his address at the club’s breakfast gathering this week.

Along with his ‘captain’ Mothibi, the two-time Comrades down run winner shared tales of his running career and dispersed pearls of wisdom to the Striders runners who are preparing for an onslaught on their personal bests in this year’s up run on June 9.

And while they lapped up all that the information from the 36-year-old – who hails from Signal Hill village in Mahikeng, North West – their main interest was in what had transpired on the road to the Moses Mabhida Stadium last year.

Just about everyone watching the race last year was shocked at seeing athletes dressed in the same green colours discriminating against a ‘teammate’. It appeared ‘racist’ to some as the two black runners refused to share their bottles with their white counterpart.

But Dijana explained that while they all ran for Nedbank, they were not teammates – he and Mothibi trained together in Rustenburg, while Wiersma came from the Netherlands.

There are other Nedbank Club runners who are not their teammates too, the bank-sponsored club having numerous branches.

“What happened there was that we grabbed our bottles, and his was not there. It was a crucial time in the race, and you cannot give anyone a gun to kill you,” Dijana explained.

“They usually say that when you are using ‘nyaope’ – slang for energy drinks in running parlance – for the first time, it takes you very high.

“So, I am the one who said to Slender (Mothibi) ‘don’t give him. Where is his bottle?’

“I mean, it took us two hours to mix ours, and earlier on I saw him (Mothibi) sharing his bottle with him (Wiersma). Would you give your enemy a gun to shoot you?”

At that time in the race, he felt it was crucial that they used whatever advantage they could to rid themselves of the newcomer who was threatening to end South Africa’s domination of the Ultimate Human Race.

“Not this time. I said ‘no, it is a crucial time’. I drank mine and threw it away as far as possible after drinking.

“I could see Slender wanted to share, but I said to him ‘Ou buti (old brother), throw it away. It was a crucial time, unless he (Mothibi) wanted the Comrades (title) to go to the Netherlands.”

Despite being denied key energy for the race, Wiersma stubbornly refused to be left behind and stayed in contention.

“Later on, there was an opportunity that God gave me. I saw he (Wiersma) was struggling. Slender was behind and I tried to wait for Slender, but I said this guy is behind and if I wait for Slender, we are going to be in trouble. I left.”

It made for one of the greatest finishes in Comrades history as all three athletes ran below the previous 5:18.19 record that was set by David Gatebe in 2016.

The last few moments of the race gave many a South African heart palpitations as Wiersma threatened to pull the proverbial championship rug from underneath Dijana’s feet.

“I was tired. Remember, I used a lot of energy when I broke away from them. I wanted to relax a little, but I could see he was coming strong.

“Going into the stadium, I thought the finish was just around the corner, but there were still some twists and turns.

“So, when I looked behind me and saw him coming on strong, I said ‘this one is never ever going to catch me. I’d rather die there at the end’. And I won.”

It was a fantastic victory that saw Dijana completing a rare back-to-back down run double. He will be out to win his first up run, of which Mothibi is the defending champion.

They’d be happy if one of them wins, but they know that Wiersma looms large as a big threat.