Team South Africa Delivers Ultra-Marathon Gold At World Championships
The South African ultra-marathon team was on fire this past weekend, as Bongumusa Mthembu secured a second place finish overall, allowing the South Africans to triumph in the team standings at the IAU 100km World Championships in Los Alcazares, Spain on Sunday.
A determined Mthembu managed to finish the ultra-distance race in a time of 6:24:05, ensuring the silver medal for his efforts. The time was also a new South African national record, as he improved on the previous record of 6:25:07, set by Bruce Fordyce in Stellenbosch in 1999, by just over a minute.
Mthembu thus became the first South African man to finish the race on the podium at the annual event since Cornet Mathomane earned a bronze medal in Torhout during 1993.
Mthembu took the lead in the second half of the race, but could not outpace Hideaki Yamauchi of Japan, who went into the lead with less than 10km left in the marathon. The Japanese athlete would eventually win in a superb time of 6:18:22.
Ultra-marathon gold for SA
Importantly in terms of the final standings for the team event, others on the five-man Team South Africa secured top finishes in the ultra-marathon race to achieve a surprise victory in Spain.
Gift Kelehe finished the race in ninth place with a time of 6:43:00 while Comrades Marathon ‘down’ run record holder David Gatebe was 12th in 6:44:34.
As the top three athletes from a country to finish count towards the team event, South Africa managed to achieve the gold finish they were going for ahead of Japan and the United States, who were second and third respectively.
Rufus Photo ended 19th in 6:52:43, and fellow early leader Ludwick Mamabolo was unable to finish the race, but the South Africans had done enough to return home from Spain as the champions of the annual event, capping an impressive year for the country in world athletics.