Mthembu aims for Croatia win

Three-time Comrades Marathon champion Bongmusa Mthembu jets off to Croatia next week with the aim of securing the title in the super-tough 100 km World Championships.

The Bulwer-born Pietermaritzburg resident finished second in the event two years ago in Spain and wishes to go one position higher this time, just three months after securing the Comrades title and proving his credentials as a star act once again.

He is among three Midlands-based ultra-distance runners in a nine-person team representing South Africa in the mighty race in the Croatian town of Sveti Martin na Muri, outside Zagreb, next Saturday, September 8.

Mthembu will be joined by two local Arthur Ford teammates Nkosinathi Duma and Thuso Mosiea in the European challenge.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or the team. But the training has been good. I have no injuries,’’ Mthembu told The Witness.

In 2016, he completed the race in 6:24:05, behind Japan’s Hideaki Yamauchi, who won gold in 6:18:22. But Mthembu successfully broke one of the longest standing national records in the books held by nine-time Comrades champion Bruce Fordyce.

Now, the 35-year-old runner will no doubt be expected to once again create national pride in long-distance running by challenging for another podium spot.

“It’s always an honour to represent the country and I speak for everyone in saying that, and I have faith in everyone in the team that we will all do as we have been told in training to hopefully achieve the target set for us,’’ he said.

After the country was represented by a men’s only team in 2016, Athletics South Africa (ASA) have decided to include four women.

They are experienced Comrades runners Salome Cooper, Fikile Mbuthuma, Deanne Horn and Lisa Collett.

The other two men in the team are Claude Moshiywa, also a former Comrades champion, and Best Ngwenya, both from Nedbank club.

Added Mthembu: “The environment is obviously different there and we don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure everyone is excited and want to do well. We just have to stick to the coaches’ instructions. But I think we are all healthy and ready for the event.

“We’ve just come from the Comrades Marathon and ASA made sure that everyone is checked in terms of fitness to get us ready for the event.’’

Meanwhile, athletics fans will also be eager to see how Caster Semenya and company perform in the finals of the money-filled IAAF Diamond League in Zurich on Wednesday night and Brussels on Thursday.

World champions Semenya and Luvo Manyonga lead the South African charge, with Semenya targeting her third straight Diamond League title over 800 m.

Manyonga will be favoured in the long jump, where he is accompanied by compatriot Ruswahl Samaai.

SA ATHLETES IN DIAMOND LEAGUE FINALS:

Thursday in Zurich:

8.04 pm — 400 m men Pieter Conradie

8.13 pm — 800 m women Caster Semenya

8.40 pm — 100 m women Carina Horn

8.45 pm — Long jump men Luvo Manyonga, Ruswahl Samaai

9.02 pm — 400 m hurdles women Wenda Nel

9.11 pm — 200 m men Luxolo Adams

9.44 pm — 400m hurdles men  Cornel Fredericks

Friday in Brussels:

8.54 pm — 100 m men Akani Simbine

 • nondumiso.zakwe@witness.co.za