Mazibuko eyes Soweto race
Michael Mazibuko (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Soweto Marathon champion Michael Mazibuko is confident he will defend his title and insists he is not threatened by the tough competition he will face on Sunday.
Last year Mazibuko held off a charge from Lesotho athletes to win the men's title in two hours, 19 minutes, four seconds (2:19:04).
"I believe I’m going to win again as there is no one who really threatens me," Mazibuko said on Friday.
"I'm going to start with the pace-setters and emulate Haile Gebrselassie’s technique when he ran at the Berlin Marathon (in 2008), breaking his own (former) world record.
"So I'm also planning to do the same technique and clock in at 2:16."
Mazibuko will be up against a strong contingent of international and local athletes, including South African marathon record holder Gert Thys.
Two-time Soweto Marathon winner Mabhutile Lebopo from Lesotho and his fellow countrymen Lebenya Nkoka and Moeketsi Mosuhli will also line-up for the race.
The 26-year-old Mazibuko maintained that he did not feel threatened by his competitors, especially 40-year-old Thys.
"Gert is an old man. There's no way I’m stressing about him," Mazibuko said.
"I have my eye on Xolisa Tyali, because he ran well at the Johannesburg Marathon, but even with him, I’m confident I will still win."
Responding to Mazibuko's comments, Thys said he was unconcerned as he planned to run his own race on Sunday.
"I will just run my race from behind and am not concerned about what's happening in front," Thys said.
"I believe what Mazibuko is saying is unprofessional and in the 12 years that I’ve been doing this I have never made such comments about another athlete.
"I will chase for the title but will do it my way and will not be pressurised by other runners."
Thys, who set the national record of 2:06:33 at the Tokyo Marathon in 1999, represented South Africa at the Olympic Games in 1996 and in 2004 and will be the only athlete in Sunday's field to have run under 2:10.
He said he had battled with medical issues over the past few years which affected his performances.
Thys finished fourth in the 56km Two Oceans marathon in April, but he dropped out of the 89km Comrades Marathon in June, after going out at record pace in the annual ultra-marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
He blamed low blood sugar levels for his failure to finish Comrades, and he believed he would have done better if he was in perfect health. He said he had also been affected at last year's Soweto Marathon, where he failed to finish.
"I've had up and downs, due to my medical condition," he said.
"Last year I ran in Soweto but could not finish and dropped out around 32km, after being in front with the pace setters, due to my blood levels.
"I believe that if it was not for that I could have pulled it off."