by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – HAD it not been for the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) escalating globally, the South African trio of Juan Van Deventer, Sibusiso Nzima and Gerda Steyn was supposed to be in Japan currently participating at the Tokyo Olympics.
They are among the hordes of athletes that had their dreams deferred when organisers of the global spectacle postponed the event to next year.
The three athletes have shaken off that disappointment and made the most of the ongoing Nedbank Runified series to showcase the type of form that made them some of the country’s best prospects for medals in Japan.
Van Deventer, Nzima and Steyn have particularly shone in the internal Nedbank Running Club 10km virtual series.
In the men’s race, Joel Mmone emerged victorious ahead of this year’s Om Die Dam 50km winner and Olympian Van Deventer who came in second.
Fellow Olympian, Nzima, secured bronze.
Comrades Marathon record-breaker, Steyn, won the women’s race after braving the heat and humidity of the United Arab Emirates capital, Dubai.
She finished ahead of Kelly Van Vliet and Deanne Horn, who were second and third respectively.
The re-scheduling of the Olympics was a double blow for Steyn who also could not defend her Comrades title after the race was postponed and a virtual version was held instead.
Meanwhile, more than 60 000 runners from around South Africa have signed up to the NedbankRunified series, with organisers confident of passing 70 000 athletes for the next challenge.
It will be run over 8km on August 8.
The event comes as global athletics events are at a standstill currently because of the COVID-19.
The Tokyo Olympics were initially scheduled from last Friday to August 9.
They are now set for the same period in 2021.
Nick Bester, Nedbank Running Club manager, said the Runified series, as well as the internal Nedbank race, were to keep athletes motivated in the wake of the shutdown on the sport.
“It gives everyone something to keep the training going and the spirits high,” Bester said.
Then Runified series ends on October 24.
– CAJ News