Alta Verster and Enoch Skosana win the mens
and womens Old Mutual 5km Victory Race Final
Mark Ouma for IAAF
23 October 1999 - Pretoria, South Africa -Making a comeback to national prominence Alta Verster and Enoch Skosana won the mens and womens Old Mutual 5km Victory Race Finals in Pretoria, South Africa.
The South Africa 5km championships began with 60 preliminary races countrywide between August 28 and October 10. The top two men and two women at each competition qualified for the finals, which were contested on a two lap route through streets in the heart of the South African capital.
Returning to the limelight after a spell of inactivity, Verster was part of a lead group of six runners at the start of the second half of the race. The fast 7:49 pace over the first lap took its toll on last years runner up Truzanne Swanepoel , who dropped out of the race shortly before the three kilometre mark.
As the group begun to break in the last kilometre, Verster stepped up her pace and it is only Louise Leballo who responded. With just over 800m of the race left, Verster made her move and went on to win in 16:40. Leballo was runner up in 16:57.
"This is my first victory in four outings at this event .and it comes as a great relief to me after two years in the cold," said Verster who was runner up in this event in 1995 and 1997. She was fourth in 1996
The best season of her career was 1997. That year her season begun on a promising note but ended prematurely. After winning the gold medal in the 1500m and 5000m at the SA senior championships in March, Verster proceeded to France in April to compete. She had only one race.
"Although l set my personal best of 33:08 in the 10km race in Paris, l injured my left knee pounding the tarmac road. It has taken me two year to fully recover. I want to run a good 10km race at the SA championships next month. After that l will concentrate on the 5000m on the track as l have no plans of running many races on the road again" said Verster.
A silver medallist in the 1500m and 5000m at the 1996 Pan Pacific School Games in Perth, Australia, Leballo is also on a comeback trail after a three year absence from competition.
"After finishing school in 1996, l joined the prison services where during our training, l suffered a leg injury that kept me out of action all year. In 1998, l had a baby. Now l am back and hungry for more action. After the SA 10km next month , l will concentrate on 15 year old Letitia Pheleu turned on the heat in the last kilometre of the race, and in the process overtook five runners to take the third spot in a career best of 17:01. Her previous best of 17:09 in this race last year saw her take fifth place.
"My aim is to build the endurance l need before l begin running the 1500m. Next year l want to compete at the World Athletics Junior Championships and prove that l am not just good at cross-country and road races," said Pheleu who has represented South Africa at the last two World Junior Cross-country Championships.
"Letitia did not do well in the 3000m at the World Youth Games in Poland because she suffered a bout of mumps during the competition.. She now has a burning desire to make her mark on the track. We are working on the 1500m for now," said Pheleus coach Joseph Diale,
The mens race got off to a blistering pace with James Mogale covering the opening kilometre in 2:34. He was soon caught and swallowed into the lead group of 20 athletes. The pack ran together covering the 2km in 5:26,and 3km in 8:20, and 4 km in 11:15.
The decisive moment of the race came with 800m to go when Skosana accelerated up a gentle slope .Abner Chipu, Richard Mavuso and Patrick Kaotsane struggled to narrow the gap. With 200m left Skosana surged again and went on to win in 13:58. Chipu was second in 14:00, while Kaotsane (14:01) and Mavuso (14:03) followed in that order.
Said Skosana:"The start of the race was just too fast. I hang in there and hoped to outpace the pack with a strong finish when l first surged, no-one came close to me. I knew the race was mine".
Skosana returned to topflight this year after recovering from a stress fractured that kept hi9m out of action in 1997 and 1998. A member of the SA team to the World Cross-country Championships in 1996 and 1999, he was 18th in the 10000m at the World Athletics Championships in Seville, Spain in August.
"Last year November l set out to make this year a success. It has not been a pleasant experience sitting out for two year waiting to recover from my injury , while other athlete compete. It took a lot of discipline to be patient. I am glad my patience has paid off.
"Now l want to build up and try and qualify in the 10000m for the Sydney Olympics. Next year l want to run a better time in Sydney," said Skosana. He has a personal best of 27:57:52 in the 10,000m.
Runner up Chipu was satisfied with his outing "This was a good test for my speed. I hope to run a marathon race in late November or some time in December," said Chipu who was fourth in the New York Marathon.
Note: all the runners are South Africans
1 Enoch Skosana 13:58
2 Abner Chipu 14:00
3 Patrick Kaotsane 14. 01
4 Richard Mavuso 14:03
5 Norman Dlomo 14:10
6 Shadrack Hoff 14:18
7 Solomon Makhosonke 14:19
8 Eric Biyase 14:21
9 Alexandra Motone 14:24
10 Ezael Thlobo 14:25
1 Alta Verster 16:40
2 Louisa Leballo 16:57
3 Letitia Pheleu 17:01
4 Avril Halstead 17:13
5 Theresa du Toit 17:18
6 Gladys Lukhwareni 17:22
7 Carlien Cornelissen 17:23
8 Georgina Fourie 17:26
9 Kirsty Weir 17:27
10 Elaine du Plessis 17.30