Ex Comrades champ to return

2012-02-21 16:41

Cape Town - Acclaimed Comrades up and down-run record holder Leonid Shvetsov will be back on the iconic track to challenge the current three time champion Stephen Muzhingi in the 2012 leg of the world’s greatest ultra-marathon. 

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has announced that the top Russian runner is set to make a surprising comeback at this year’s ultimate human race.

Shvetsov, an Olympic marathoner and former Russian national record-holder was victorious in both the 2007 and 2008 running of the event, with 4 gold and 1 silver medal to his name. The 42-year-old athlete will be running for the Nedbank Running Club.

Shvetsov broke the Comrades ‘down-run’ record in 2007, in a time of 5:20:49, overtaking the Comrades king, Bruce Fordyce’s mark set in 1986.

The rapid Russian runner also set a new standard of 5:24:49 for an ‘up-run’ the following year. He unfortunately failed to score the Comrades hat-trick in 2009, after being beaten by Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi in that race.

It was then that Shvetsov had decided to declare his retirement from running. His announcement to return to the Comrades field is therefore an exciting and adrenaline-fuelled build-up to the epic event.

But winning this year’s race and reclaiming the glory from Muzhingi will be no mean feat. A very vocal and revved-up Muzhingi is adamant that he will be running off with his fourth Comrades win come Race Day.

"There is no pressure at all. If anything, after resting for two years, it is Mr Shvetsov who is under pressure. I am feeling good, I am prepared and I am focused on my victory," said Muzhingi.

Muzhingi’s coach, Cliff Chinsamy of Bluff Meats Formula One Running Club, echoes his sentiments: "The 2012 Comrades Marathon is going to be a ‘rumble in the jungle’. Stephen is well into his training regimen. He is focused, both mentally and physically, and he will be well prepared for a mighty good run.

"I don’t think that Shvetsov will be any major challenge for my runner. I must admit though that we are anticipating some major contenders from southern Africa, both on homeground and surroundings, like Lesotho. The 2012 Comrades Marathon is most definitely the race to focus on," said Chinsamy.

Meanwhile, Nick Bester, manager of the Nedbank Running Club said: "Over the past four months, Shvetsov has been involved in intensive training and intends to be among this year’s Comrades Top 10. He had intended to participate in the 2011 Race but circumstances were not conducive. His 8-year-old son will be accompanying him."

Bester added: "What I can say is that Shvetsov is a champion and as a foreigner, he brings a good element of competition and rivalry to the Comrades field. It remains to be seen if our local runners will shine at the Comrades Finish but I do anticipate some outstanding runners from Kenya and Ethiopia."

It’s all a case of wait and see who will make it first to the Comrades finish at Durban’s Kingsmead Stadium come June 3.