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The defending SPAR Grand Prix champion, Tadu Nare of Ethiopia ran a superb race to win the 10km SPAR Grand Prix Durban race on Sunday morning. She finished in 31.50 seconds.
Nare beat the 2019 champion, Helalia Johannes of Namibia, by nine seconds. Another Ethiopian, Selam Gebre, was third in 32.17, to give Nedbank a clean sweep on the podium.
Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank), three-times SPAR Grand Prix champion, was the first South African home, in 33.03 minutes, followed by another former champion, Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) in 33.16.
Nare and Johannes ran side by side for most of the race until Nare broke away at nine kilometres, sprinting to the finish. The first 12 runners all finished in under 34 minutes.
Nare, who finished second to Johannes in all six races in 2019, as well as in Gqeberha last month, said everything had gone according to plan.
“My aim was to win the race, and I knew I had to stick with Helalia and not let her get away. At nine kilometres, I decided it was my do or die moment, so I summoned up all my energy and broke away.”
She said there was no point in speculating about whether she would have won all the races in 2021 if Johannes had been present.
“You can’t say what would have happened. You just have to focus on the current race. There is more competition now and we are all challenging each other.”
Johannes, who also won the over-40 category, said she was feeling very tired at the start of the race, after spending most of the day at airports in Windhoek and Johannesburg on Friday having missed her flight out of Namibia.
“It was not my day today, but I am happy to have run a good race, despite being tired.
Gebre, who also won the junior category, said she was enjoying the experience of running in South Africa.
“I didn’t expect to be in the top three today, so I am very pleased with my performance,” she said.
Van Zyl said being the first South African home was a bonus.
“It was not my most comfortable run and I felt a bit off-balance, so I just focused on one kilometre at a time.
“Having the international runners here is very good for us, because the South African runners are putting in better times. If the first one home finishes in under 32 minutes, it forces the other runners to up their game. So I welcome the international runners. It is very good for South African athletics.”
Enoch Skosana, Chairperson of the Athletics South Africa Road Running Commission said he was impressed by the performance of the athletes in Durban.
“The field was top class and of high international standard. Times posted by the top 12 runners are a clear indication that this year’s SPAR Grand Prix series is going to be very competitive. This is good for women’s road running not only in South Africa but on the continent. It is important that our South African athletes are exposed to international competition at this level which helps them develop into world class athletes.”
Johannes said she would like to regain the title she won in 2019, but would miss the Tshwane race because she would be competing in the Commonwealth Games, where she hoped to defend her Commonwealth marathon title. Nare said she planned to run in all six races.
The next SPAR race will be the inaugural Mbombela race on July 16.