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South African and Ethiopian marathon domination

South African and Ethiopian teams victorious in marathon
Mark Ouma for the IAAF

19 September 1999 - An observer would be forgiven for assuming that South Africa (men) and Ethiopia (women) athletes planned together how they would conquer the continent in the marathon races at the All Africa Games (AAG).

They used an identical team strategy to wear down their opponents and won almost all the medals that were up for grabs. Both sets of athletes took turns leading the race up until 25km, before accelerating on the same incline that took the wind out of their opponents.

From then on it was not a question as to which the gold medallist came from. Rather it was a question of which order the athletes would stand on the medal podium.

South Africa’s Samuel Molokomme, Frank Pooe and Joshua Petersen each took turn leading the race. In the first half of the race, Fukasi Fullah Wolbrood (Tanzania), Fackson Nkandu(Zambia), Commonwealth Games Champion Thabiso Moqhali (Lesotho), Bedaso Turba (Ethiopia), Bruce Lati (Kenya) each lead at some stage.

The dramatic change came at 25km when Peterson surged and opened a 100m lead. Pooe and Molokomme increased their pace and were joined by Wolbrod. Sensing danger the Tanzanian went ahead at 31km as Molokomme and then Pooe faded.

Petersen won the race in 2:19.07. Wilbrood was runner up in 2:20.47, while Pooe secured the bronze medal with a 2:23.36 effort.

"Team spirit was the main strategy that enabled me win the race. Our plan was not to push the pace hard at the beginning instead we held back so as to seize up the field. We discovered that our opponents were not very strong on hill and we exploited it to the full.

"I decided to make my break on the hill going to Wits University at 25km. The only uncertainty was weather l would hold on to the lead as you know Pooe is has a strong finish. This is the first time l have donned national colours and it is great to win a gold medal on the very first time l donned national colours, " said Petersen who is the reigning Soweto marathon champion.

Pooe praised the champions for holding the fort when he ran into problems after 30km. "I am happy the gold medal will remain in South Africa. I have a problem with rapid dehydration after 30km. I just hope l can rectify the situation before the New York marathon on November 7," said Pooe who was third at the Boston marathon in April.

"I will not defend the Soweto marathon as l put my country first before the money l would have won if l win the Soweto marathon on November 7, " said the AAG marathon champion.

A small-scale farmer on the slopes of mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Wolbrod confessed that his first international marathon was tough. "There were several testing hills in the second half of the race and the South Africans did not make the going any easier when they surged at 24 km. I was determined to make sure they do not will all the medals," said Wolbrod.

The women’s filed of ten was broken up after three kilometres with Ethiopians Hiwyot Gizaw, Meseret Kotu, and Kore Alemu, together with Namibia’s Elizabeth Mongudhi, Lina Mhlongo (South Africa) and Sonja Agoun (Tunisia) opening a gap with the rest of the field. Ten kilometres into the race the Tunisian and South Africa fell off the pace leaving the Namibian to challenge the Ethiopians.

With a clear mind of sweeping the board, the Ethiopians took turns surging to the lead and in the process wearing down Mongudhi. Like soldiers on the march they stepped up their pace and in single file climbed the steep incline at 25km that blew away, Mongudhi. The east Africans regrouped and ran together for another 10km.

Once there were more that a kilometre ahead of Mongudhi, they started their own duel for the different places on the medal podium. Gizaw was first across the finish in 2:45.38. Kotu was runner up in 2:46.29, while Alemu was third in 2:48.31.

"We planned to win this race as a team. We knew the Namibian has a lot of international experience and was going to give us a run for the medals," said Gizaw.



1 Joshua Petyersen (South Africa) 2:19:07
2 Fukasi Fullah Wolbrood (Tanzania) 2:20:47
3 Frank Pooe (South Africa) 2:23:36
4 Thabiso Moqhali (Lesotho) 2:24:20
5 Khauta Ntsoele (Lesotho) 2:25:42
6 Bedaso Turba (Ethiopia) 2:26:22
7 Yiyapo Maso (Botswana) 2:26:27
8 Bruce Lati (Kenya) 2:26:33
9 Luketz Swartbooi (Namibia) 2:26:53
10 Samuel Molokomme (South Africa) 2:28:10


1 Hiywot Gizwa (Ethiopia) 2:45:38
2 Meseret Kotu (Ethiopia) 2:46:29
3 Kore Alemu (Ethiopia) 2:48:31
4 Elizabeth Mongudhi (Namibia) 2:52:59
5 Carol Mercer (South Africa) 3:01:26
6 Lina Mhlongo (South Africa) 3:06:25
7 Sonja Agoun (Tunisia) 3:15:41