Muzhingi limps out of Comrades

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s all-time Comrades Marathon great Stephen Muzhingi limped off at the 70km peg in the 93rd edition of the long-running ultra-marathon race on Sunday.

Marko Mambo was the first Zimbabwean home in fifth position ensuring that the legacy lives on even in the absence of the three-time champion Muzhingi.

A gutted Muzhingi had hoped to make it 10 Comrades Marathon gold medals by crossing the line in a commanding position, top three to be precise, but all that went up in smoke owing to a recurring knee injury that struck him with a few kilometres to go.

“This long standing injury is indeed threatening to cut short my career it has now exacerbated and don’t see it healing up anytime soon,” a dejected Muzhingi told the Daily News from South Africa yesterday.

“I had prepared well for the race. I woke up in high spirits and entered the start line with both body and soul intact but got this terrible pain mid-way into the race before I finally called it quits. It happens in sport but I’m not giving up just yet. I will try again next time.”

Another top Zimbabwean athlete Mike Fokoroni, who was one of the favourites to light up the event for the locals, finished in a respectable 19 behind Lovemore Chabata,  another local athlete who finished in 18th place.

Fokoroni said he had hoped for a much higher finish and is yet to come to terms with his final placing inside the top 20.

“You know sometimes it is tough to predict Comrades’ situation. You train hard yet you can’t make it because of a silly thing. You train easy and you win as a surprise,” he said.

“To me, it’s just funny because my body didn’t respond and I ended up deciding to reduce the pace and run for the gold finish only.

“I can’t fully explain what happened, even myself I still don’t understand it. My body just refused to respond like what I usually do.

“Most importantly though, I am more than happy for Marko; we both come from Bindura, he’s my senior partner who brought me to South Africa for the very first time in 2004. I am very happy he showed the country that Bindura is a place of champions.”

South Africa’s Bongmusa Mthembu made it three Comrades’ Marathon wins with Sunday’s number one finish while his fellow countryman Joseph Mphuthi was in second place.

According to Times Live, Mtehmbu waded off a strong challenge from Mambo who had set the pace for the better part in the second half of the 90km down run.