Local endurance athletes shine at home and abroad

Stephen Mokoka holds the national 10km record. Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images.

The impressive Stephen Mokoka in particular is rapidly becoming an Olympic podium contender.

Some of South Africa’s elite endurance athletes made silent statements at the weekend, sticking up their hands in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Five months ahead of the multi-sport showpiece, distance runner Stephen Mokoka finished second at the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan on Sunday, completing the 42.2km race in 2:08:05.

Mokoka, who had already qualified for the Tokyo Games, further established his place among the contenders for the Olympic marathon podium after taking fifth place at the World Championships in Doha last year.

Competing in cold and wet conditions at Lake Biwa, in a lonely battle which was restricted to elite athletes and attracted minimal spectators due to coronavirus fears, Mokoka crossed the line 36 seconds behind Kenyan winner Evans Chebet.

The 35-year-old South African was just 25 seconds outside his personal best, as he dipped under 2:11:00 for the ninth year in a row over the classic distance.

“It rained the whole race and it was cold, which made it tough, but there’s nothing we could do about that and everyone else was running in the same conditions,” Mokoka said.

“So I just gave it all I had, and I’m satisfied with second place.”

Meanwhile, in Jeffrey’s Bay on Saturday, the country’s top long-distance swimmers stood up in search of spots in the national Olympic team.

With the top two men and women in the 10km contests making themselves eligible for selection to the Games squad, four individuals kept their Olympic hopes alive at the SA Open Water Swimming Championships.

Michael McGlynn won the men’s race in 1:57:03, with Danie Marais taking second position in 1:57:36.

In the women’s event, pre-race favourite Michelle Weber earned the national title in 2:07:13, with in-form opponent Robyn Kinghorn securing the silver medal in 2:08:24.

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