South Africa: Athletics Back in Gauteng, Months After Strict Lockdown

Johannesburg — WHEN the starting pistol is fired at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison sports ground in Pretoria on Saturday, it will signal the first race to be held in Gauteng North in eight months.

Some of the country's big guns are set to come out blazing when athletics returns to the region with the Nedbank Running Club Skosana 10km race.

Set to feature 500 athletes, it comes months after the imposition of a coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown at the end of March. It has been one of the strictest lockdowns globally but the virus has since infected more than 785 000 people in South Africa, including over 21 400 that have died.

Edward Mothibi, the Comrades Marathon champion, who in October also took overall victory in the Cape Town Marathon, will be among the favourites to clinch the men's title on Saturday.

Juan van Deventer, the former Olympian and 2020 Om Die Dam 50km champion, is another of the big names raring to go.

Short distance specialist, Joel Mmone, is the dark horse.

In the women's race, Irvette van Zyl, will make a welcome return from injury.

A succession of injuries have curtailed van Zyl's progress.

Regular podium finisher, Charlene Archer, will be another eager to secure the women's title.

With the COVID-19 leading to a postponement or cancellation of races, organisers heaved a sigh of relief the Nedbank Running Club Skosana 10km event would go ahead.

There is however the rising cost of staging events at the moment considering the restriction of the number of runners and protocols to be observed on race day.

"With the added screening, sanitizers and the field restricted to 500 runners, it makes it not viable at all to have events but with the sponsors on board we have managed to stay afloat," Jacquline Rencontre, the race director, said.

Sponsors include Bavaria SA, Biogen, Future Life and Nike.

Named after running legend, Enock Skosana, the race has been held annually since 2012.

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