Durban - Claude Moshiywa is the latest Comrades Marathon title holder to withdraw from what will be the second largest field in the history of the gruelling race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
In 2013, Moshiywa became the first South African winner of the event’s 'Up' run in two decades.
But the 44-year-old Gauteng resident and bank employee has not recovered from a muscle injury sustained earlier this year and won’t be making the start of the popular race at 05:30 outside Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Sunday.
More than 21 200 courageous souls will be trying to complete the 2018 race distance of 90.184km. Only the 75th anniversary of this huge mental and physical battle between KwaZulu-Natal’s main cities in the year 2000 had a larger field, which numbered 23 961.
Moshiywa’s withdrawal follows that of two recent female champions - Camille Herron and Caroline Wostmann.
Nedbank Running Club team manager and former Comrades winner Nick Bester confirmed Moshiywa’s withdrawal.
“Claude will, unfortunately, not be running this Sunday because of an injury. He also had a problem for Two Oceans earlier this year. There was hope of him recovering in time for Comrades, but he’s out.
“It is a blow for our team, after we also lost Camille, the defending women’s champ, to an injury,” said Bester.
“But we still have other top contenders in both the men’s and women’s sections. I am a bit more nervous about the women’s race than the men’s one, to be honest.
“I believe Charne Bosman and Gerda Steyn from our team are definitely top-three performers, along with the strong Russian who came second last year - Alexandra Morozova.
“The men’s race looks a bit tougher, although we have our own top men in the likes of Hatiwande Nyamande, who came second last year, and Ludwick Mamabolo, who came fourth last year and is always a threat to others - winning in 2012.
“It is true that Arthur Ford and Entsika seem to be our main competitors in the men’s section from a team perspective,” he added.
Arthur Ford and Entsika together boast the last four men’s winners of the Comrades, but Nedbank have performed better in the women’s section.
Bester said aside from the known injury cases, his well-funded team’s preparations had gone well and featured seven different training camps around the country and in Lesotho.
“We generally plan to get 50% of the gold medals on offer in the men’s and women’s races, and it won’t be different this year,” he said.
“The Down Run is always harder; it really kills the muscles and runners need to control their speed. I think that in the men’s race we will see big bunches of athletes until about the 60km mark and then they will split up, with the guy who has not over-trained himself for the race taking control.
“The women’s race is a bit different in that you don’t normally have big bunches of the top athletes running together all the time, and you usually know by the halfway mark who’s likely to win.
“But overall, I am sure it’s going to be a nice race on Sunday, and it has an exciting new finish.”