Big names for Two Oceans
Cape Town - The increased prize money at this year's Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon has enticed a number of top local and international athletes to compete for line honours this Saturday the 23rd of April.
Eight of last year's top 10 men have entered, including last year's winner Mabhutile Lebopo, runner-up Moeketsi Mosuhli and third placed Teboho Sello all coming from Lesotho. The 2010 event saw a total domination by the tiny mountain kingdom and they are back to try the same again this year.
Two time Comrades winner Stephen Muzhingi, who finished fourth last year, will also be hoping to better his position. Mabhutile's brother Warinyane has also confirmed his entry. He was fifth last year. Other runners to watch out for include Kenyans Chebbi Kemboi, who has a marathon personal best of 2h:12 and Kipkemoi Kiplimo.
The increase in prize money by close to 50% will mean that the top male and female runners in the 56km ultra event each take home R250 000 for their efforts. The new prize money schedule makes it one of the highest paying ultra events in the country and offers top runners a real incentive to focus on winning the event this year.
In the women's ultra event, seven of last year's top 10 have confirmed their entries, including the Nurgalieva twins who will have some tough competition this year in the form of previous winners Simone Staicu who won in 2003 and Madina Biktagirova who was the oldest winner of the event in 2007 at age 42.
Russian athlete Marina Myshlyanova, who was third at Comrades last year, has also entered the ultra. Flying the South African flag will be Riana van Niekerk (6th in 2010), Farwa Mentoor, Joanna Thomas (7th in 2010) and Gladys Lukhwareni, who makes a return to road running after a two-year ban for taking an illegal substance. Mamorallo Tjoka who finished third in the Two Oceans half marathon last year, will be running the ultra for only the second time.
"The increase in prize money will hopefully provide the top runners with the incentive to focus on winning the ultra, as well as encouraging them to have a serious attempt at the respective course records, which were set over 20 years ago," added Rowyn James, race director.
James added that while the prize money has always been considered generous, they wanted to take it to the next level in order to attract some of road running's top names. The second and third place male and female runners will each receive R125 000 and R65 000 respectively. Total prize money on offer for the event is just under R1.5-million. Last year's first prize winners received R150 000, second place R75 000 and third R50 000.
Lushapo April is back to defend his title in the half marathon but will have his work cut out for him from the likes of previous winner Luwis Masunda, Sibusiso Nzema and Xoliswa Twali. Kenyan Daniel Yegon could also pose a threat to April's title defence. Stephen Mokoka was on the entry list but pulled out last week as he has decided to run in Japan.
The women's half marathon will also be an exciting one to watch as five of the top 10 from last year will be at the start line, including defending champion and course record holder Rene Kalmer and second placed Irvette van Blerk, both of whom are running exceptionally well. Past winners Charné Bosman and Halalia Johannes will also provide some tough competition, together with Annerine van Schalkwyk.
A record field of close to 23 000 runners are expected to line up on Saturday, with just over 14 000 taking part in the half marathon - the biggest field in the event's history. The ultra marathon has also attracted a large field of just under 9 000, not a record field but certainly one of the biggest fields in the ultra.