Bulawayo — Top local female middle and long-distance runner Tabitha Tsatsa, who has already qualified for the Olympics, recently set a national record after coming fourth in the 79th Dong-A Seoul International Marathon.
Tsatsa set a new record of 2:29:20 to better the previous national record of 2:30:12, which she set last year when finishing fourth in the same event. The international race attracted more than 3 000 athletes. The winner of the 2007 race in the women's category was Wei Yanan of China who did not compete in this year's event and it was another Chinese athlete who came first. Zhang Shujing ran the Dong-A marathon for the fourth time grabbing her second win in 2:26:11, her fastest time for exactly five years.
She had run 2:23:18 to win in Seoul on March 16, 2003 and her personal best is just one second faster - 2:23:17 -- set in Beijing in 2002. According to reports from Seoul, the women's race was decided relatively early. After 15km of running there were only three runners in the leading group, Zhang, Hellen Kimutai of Kenya and another Chinese Wang Xueqin, who was the real surprise name of the race. Wang only had a personal best of 2:45:45 from her only career marathon in 2007, but when the top three reached the 20km together in 1:09:14, it was clear she would either not finish the race or lower her personal best considerably. Surprisingly, it was the Kenyan Kimutai who was left behind before 25km, which the Chinese reached in 1:26:21, Kimutai already 23 seconds back. Zhang finally made her move before the 35km mark and easily won the race in 2:26:11 before Wang Xueqin's huge personal best 2:28:39 for the second place bettering her old personal best by 17 minutes and 6 seconds.
Kimutai was third in the race finishing in 2:29:11, just keeping Tsatsa behind. The president of the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, Joseph Mungwari, said Tsatsa was doing very fine for herself and the country. "We are very happy about her performance. She is continuing to improve her form, despite the fact that she has already qualified for the Olympics with a higher standard.
"If she continues doing that I think we are destined for bigger things at the Olympic Games this year. We wish her all the best and we will continue supporting her wherever the need arises," he said.