Pietermaritzburg - The 90th Comrades Marathon belonged to South Africa, and it was about time, too.
Caroline Wostmann became the first South African female winner since Rae Bisschoff in 1998. Wostmann was also less than three minutes off the up-run record held by Russian veteran Elena Nurgalieva.
Wostmann is also the first South African woman to win the Two Oceans Marathon and Comrades in the same year.
Only some 35 minutes earlier, Gift Kelehe had won gold in the men’s race, which meant that South Africa had a male and female winner for the first time since 1992.
Kelehe’s older brother, Andrew Kelehe, won the race in 2001.
The Rustenburg-based policeman may have had a tough time preparing for the race with work hours providing a major obstacle to his training, but he was never short of confidence. And that confidence remained after the race.
“History has been made today,” he said.
“It was not over-confidence. But sometimes if you want something you must be confident and you must believe that it will happen.
“I had a belief that I could win this race today and it happened.”
Kelehe had won three gold medals before Sunday, but now that he had recorded his first win he hoped that he could go on a run and dominate the next few years.
“It was my wish and my aim to be the champion one of these days,” he said.
“Next year I am coming back for a win.”
Wostmann, an accounting lecturer at Wits University, hoped that this win would bring about a renewed era of South African women succeeding at the Comrades after they have been spectators to the brilliance of Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva in recent times.
“It shows that there definitely is a big improvement in South African running,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of strong women ... I do think that specifically with Nedbank, who has been helping us so much, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more South Africans in the top 10.
“We have been working quite hard as South African women to try and improve our ultra-running and that’s definitely coming through now.”
There was good news on the medical front, too, with only two serious cases of hyperthermia being reported by the end of the race day.
MEN’S TOP 10:
1. Gift Kelehe – 05:38:36
2. Mohammed Husien – 05:46:14
3. Hatiwande Nayamande – 05:48:19
4. Lebohang Monyele – 05:52:32
5. Teboho Selo – 05:54:03
6. Joseph Mphuthi – 05:54:29
7. Claude Moshiywa – 05:55:17
8. Stephen Muzhingi – 05:56:36
9. Sandile Ngunuza – 05:57:08
10. Thuso Mosiea – 05:59:08
WOMEN’S TOP 10:
1. Caroline Wostmann – 06:12:22
2. Charne Bosman – 06:33:24
3. Elena Nurgalieva – 06:40:36
4. Olesya Nurgalieva – 06:41:18
5. Nina Podnebesnova – 06:41:48
6. Eleanor Greenwood – 06:44:03
7. Emmerentia Rautenbach – 06:45:22
8. Joasia Zakrzewski – 07:00:45
9. Simona Staicu – 07:01:14
10. Yolandi Maclean – 07:01:49
Gift Kelehe is embraced by his brother at the finish (Lloyd Burnard)
Caroline Wostmann has a lie down after winning the women's race (Lloyd Burnard)