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Posted: April 8, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Manmbo Hoping For Fourth Two Oceans Victory On Saturday

From David Monti

© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved RaceResultsWeekly.com

By Riel Hauman

All ten male gold medalists from 2008 will be at the start line of Saturday’s 40th Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon over 56 km in Cape Town, South Africa. The big question being asked is: Can Marco Mambo of Zimbabwe become the first man in the history of the race to win four times?

It is perhaps easier to pick a female winner: The chances are good that her surname will be Nurgalieva. The only question is: Which of the twins, Yelena or Olesya will cross the finish first this time?

Almost 19,000 runners will line up for the ultramarathon and the accompanying half-marathon, which will be run for the twelfth time. Entries for the shorter race were cut off when they reached the 12,000 mark (a record field), while 6800 will attempt the ultra, South Africa's second-largest after the world famous Comrades Marathon.

Mambo won the Two Oceans in 2004 and 2005, but then had to wait until 2008 before he returned to the top spot. He failed to finish in both 2006 and 2007. His 3:05:39 of 2005 remains his fastest; it is the fourth quickest ever in the race. Last year he ran 3:11:35 to beat Mzwanele Maphekula by 55 seconds.

As usual, the 37-year-old Mambo has been keeping a low profile in the run-up to the Two Oceans, but his experience of the course will count in his favour. His marathon PB of 2:14:52 makes him one of the fastest of the top contenders. After the very windy 2008 race he said he would be coming back this year to break the record (Thompson Magawana’s brilliant 3:03:44 in 1988).

Only one runner, Monica Drögemöller, has ever won four times, while Siphiwe Gqele is the only male apart from Mambo with three victories – a feat also achieved by Beverley Malan and Angelina Sephooa. Mambo has the ability to join Drögemöller, but the competition is mich tougher than in the eighties and early nineties when she and Gqele competed.

Maphekula has had a solid preparation since he improved his marathon PB to 2:17:14 in the Cape Town Marathon last year. In the SA Marathon in February he was fourth in 2:18:49 and he has been working on his speed with some good 10 km performances. He finished quicker than Mambo over the last part of the course last year and has a good chance of spoiling the Zimbabwean’s party.

Simon Peu was third in 3:13:33, with the next three runners finishing within 5 seconds of one another: Mluleki Nobanda, 2007 winner Bethuel Netshifhefhe and Mabule Rhapotle.

Peu was in his first Two Oceans and could be a danger man this year if his recent win in the Kosmos 3-in-1 Marathon has not taken too much out of him. Nobanda, now 40, won the race when he attempted it for the first time in 2003 and was second the next year, while Rhapotle was sixth in both 2007 and 2008. He has already won an ultramarathon this year – the Midvaal Fordyce 50 km in 3:14:29 – and the five weeks of recovery may not be enough.

Of the other gold medalists of 2008, Peter Muthubi (7th) will be someone to reckon with. He improved his marathon PB to 2:19:04 when he finished fifth in the SA Marathon in February and also had a good run in the downhill Long Tom Half Marathon.
The other three gold medalists returning this year are Stephen Muzhingi (8th), Johannes Maseko (9th) and former Comrades champion Sipho Ngomane (10th), who was second in 2005 and third in 2006.

None of them have shown their cards so far this year, and there is a handful of others who will challenge for a gold medal, if not the win: 2006 winner Moses Njodzi, who didn’t finish last year; Prodigal Khumalo, who will certainly want to improve on his 12th spot in 2008 and was fifth in the Nedbank Durban City Marathon in a PB 2:16:03 in February; Mncedisi Mkhize, who may have his sights on the Comrades; Portipher Dombojena, who won the City to City 50 km last year; Morongoa Raseruthe, whose 93rd place last year is no indication of his talents (he was 21st in the Comrades); and Modibe Mamabolo, who missed gold by one place in 2008 and was seventh in the 2009 SA Marathon.

Nurgalieva Twins Will Be Hard To Beat

Six of the female gold medalists of 2008 have entered again. Apart from the Nurgalieva twins, who finished first (Olesya) and second (Yelena), the highest placer who is returning is Carol Mercer (6th). She beat Farwa Mentoor, who was followed by Ursula Frans (8th) and Leanne Juul (10th). Between Frans and Juul was perennial top-ten finisher Grace de Oliveira (now 47), who recently announced her retirement from ultrarunning.

The Nurgalievas are virtually untouchable in ultras and with their strongest challengers last year (Tatyana Zhirkova and Madina Biktagirova) not present, the only question about them is: Which one will finish first?

While the sisters consistently deny that they take turns winning, they have certainly dominated ultramarathon in South Africa over the past six years. Their record in the Two Oceans is: Yelena – 1st in 2004 and 2005, 2nd in 2006 and 2008, 3rd in 2007; Olesya – 1st in 2008, 2nd in 2004 and 2005, 4th in 2007.

Olesya set a new marathon PB of 2:27:37 in last year’s Dresdner Kleinwort Frankfurt Marathon, where she beat her sister easily. Her winning time in the 2008 Two Oceans, 3:34:53, is the closest anyone has come to Frith van der Merwe’s fabled 1989 course record of 3:30:36. Yelena ran 3:35:25 last year. Riana van Niekerk, who has surpassed Mentoor as South Africa’s top ultrarunner and was fifth in 2008, will be staying away to concentrate on the Comrades.

The other SA gold medalists of last year will be challenged by Zimbabwean Samukeliso Moyo and South Africans Davera Magson, a much improved runner since her 25th place in 2007; Adinda Kruger, who will want to improve on her DNF of 2008; and Maya Lawrie, who will run her debut Two Oceans but is the current SA veterans (masters) champion in the half marathon and 10 km.

Moyo’s tendency to over-race may count against her. She was sixth in 2007 (and third in last year’s half marathon), but so far this year has already run the Durban City Marathon (1st in 2:43:11), the Johannesburg City Marathon, and a number of half marathons.

Marlize van Schaik who, like Juul and Frans is a Capetonian, may spring a surprise; she was 16th in 2008.

After months of uncertainty, it was announced recently that the world-famous scenic drive Chapman’s Peak, one of the most popular sections of the course, will be opened especially for the race (as it was for the recent Cape Argus Cycle Tour). Reconstruction of the road after another series of bush fires and rockfalls has been delayed because of political and legal wrangles and the road is still closed to ordinary traffic. A major rebuilding of the road to make it safer was undertaken between 2000 and 2003 and in those years the Two Oceans was run on an alternative route over Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Way).

Top prize in the ultramarathon is R150,000 (USD 16,500) for both men and women, with R25,000 (USD 2750) on offer for breaking the course records.

In the half -marathon neither of the 2008 champions, George Majaji and Mamorallo Tjoka, has entered. Favourites among the men are Wirimayi Juwawo, Lusapho April (2nd last year), SA half-marathon champion Stephen Mokoka and Tshamano Setone; among the women the top contenders are Helalia Johannes (winner in 2006 and 2007, when she set the course record of 73:16), Thabita Tsatsa (2nd in 2008), Gloria Baeba, Annerien van Schaklkwyk and Kim Laxton.


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