Van Zyl stretches her Spar Grand Prix lead despite knee injury

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Irvette van Zyl has extended her lead in the SPAR Grand Prix standings, after winning the Durban SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge on Sunday in record time.
Van Zyl won the first three races in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and Durban, and now has 70 points, well ahead of her nearest rival, last year’s Grand Prix winner Lebogang Phalula, who finished in 11th position on Sunday. She had a total of 47 Grand Prix points.
Cornelia Joubert, who finished second in Durban, is just one point behind Phalula, in third position, with Christine Kalmer in fourth position, on 44 points. Phalula’s twin sister Diana-Lebo, who won the Grand Prix in 2014, is in fifth position, with 36 points.
Van Zyl, who sustained a bad knee injury after falling during a training run two weeks ago, said she thought of pulling out of Sunday’s race because her fall has disrupted her training.
“But then I thought about the Grand Prix points and decided I had to run. Lebogang and I were so close after the first two races, and if I hadn’t run on Sunday, I would have had no chance of winning the Grand Prix,” said Van Zyl, who won the title in 2010 and 2011.
“I have been having a really good year this year, and so I couldn’t afford not to run. I wanted to make top five, so I was over the moon that I won, and got bonus points for my time,” she said.
Meanwhile, South African and American great, 52-year-old Colleen de Reuck, who won a gold medal in the Comrades Marathon just over a week ago, said the SPAR Grand Prix was of extreme importance to road-running in South Africa.
“It is a great motivator for South Africa’s top runners. I wish it had been around when I was running,” she said.
“It is very important for the top runners to get exposure and to have race experience. The Grand Prix means there is good competition among the elite athletes,” said De Reuck.
In honour of the Grand Prix’s tenth anniversary, the six women who have won the Grand Prix title are all mentoring a junior runner, who have also competed in the Challenge races in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Three of them – Simonay Weitsz, Ashleigh Simonis and Nicole van der Merwe currently hold the top three Grand Prix spots in the junior category. Simonay, who is Mapaseka Makhanya’s protégé, is in tenth position in the open category with 20 points. Ashleigh, who is partnered with Lebogang Phalula, is in joint 16th position with seven points.
Boxer heads the club competition, with 212 points. KPMG are second, with 185 and Nedbank third, with 113.

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