Athletics 19.8.2018 02:10 pm

Controversy blows Grand Prix series wide open

Irvette van Zyl in action during the Spar Women's Challenge at Pietermaritzburg Oval on August 19, 2018 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

Irvette van Zyl in action during the Spar Women's Challenge at Pietermaritzburg Oval on August 19, 2018 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

Five leading contenders inexplicably run the wrong route in Pietermaritzburg.

Five elite road runners were disqualified on Sunday, including series contenders Glenrose Xaba and Kesa Molotsane, after they followed the wrong route at the penultimate leg of the Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km campaign in Pietermaritzburg.

Shortly before the halfway mark, four athletes in the lead group – Xaba, Molotsane and Lesotho athletes Mamorallo Tjoka and Neheng Khatala – followed a media vehicle which had to take a detour as it could not negotiate a portion of the course through a park.

Former series winner Irvette van Zyl was the only member of the front pack who followed the correct course, running the full length of the race, while the other four individuals ran significantly shorter and were later scratched from the results.

Lebogang Phalula was also disqualified for taking the wrong route at a late stage of the race.

“Five athletes have been disqualified by the race referee for taking the incorrect route,” said race director Brad Glasspoole.

“There were objections lodged by clubs and the jury of appeal made a unanimous decision that the race results will stand as they are. Irvette was the first runner who completed the full distance.”

Van Zyl, who controlled the pace from the start, took the official victory in 34:26, finishing 21 seconds clear of Jenet Mbhele who crossed the line in second place.

Spectators were denied a potentially spectacular contest, however, with Van Zyl, Xaba and Molotsane all looking strong when the lead group was split.

While Xaba led the Grand Prix standings ahead of Molotsane going into the fifth leg of the series, the disqualifications were expected to have a major effect on the rankings, with the updated list due to be released next week.

The sixth and final leg of the series will be held in Johannesburg in October.

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