by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – HELALIA Johannes is basking in the glory of global history as the first woman aged older than 40 years to run 10 kilometres under 32 minutes.
This feat attained at the Spar Women’s Race at the Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha on Saturday is testament of an athlete who is aging like fine wine.
The Namibian athlete, aged 41 showed her younger peers a clean pair of heels as she finished the race in 31.53 minutes.
It marked a resounding comeback from injury after Johannes marked last year’s edition of the women’s premier race because of injury and international commitments.
“Age is just a number,” the veteran from the northern area of Oshali said.
“As long as my body responds the way I want it to, I will run fast,” she added.
With her exploits in Gqeberha, Johannes has emerged as the favourite for the race and a contender for a clean sweep as was in 2019 when she achieved a clean sweep.
The Durban and Mbombela legs of the Spar Grand Prix are up next in Durban and Mbombela in June and July respectively but she will not be available for the August installment as she will be competing in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
She should be in contention for the October series set for Cape Town and Johannesburg.
This could be good news for rivals but reigning Grand Prix champion, the Ethiopian Tadu Nare (20), is not reading too much into the threat posed by the Namibian track sensation.
“It is very important to run against someone who is better than you,” Nare said.
In Gqeberha, Johannes and Nare ran side by side for the first 8km until the Namibian broke away.
“She pushes me to run faster and so I develop as a runner,” Nare said of Johannes.
Nare finished second in 32.11 minutes.
Compatriot, Selam Gebre was third in 32.23 minutes.
Tayla Kavanagh was the first South African to cross the finish line, in 32.33.
So fast was the race that the first 11 runners all finished in under 34 minutes.
The next Spar Grand Prix series is set for Durban on June 26.
– CAJ News