Le­gend guides Green Dream Team’s Olympic hope­fuls

The pro­gramme

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTH­OWA­GAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­press.co.za

Ned­bank Run­ning Club boss Nick Bester has roped in leg­endary run­ner Hen­drick Ra­maala as a coach to help guide a group of lo­cal Olympic marathon hope­fuls ahead of the 2016 Rio Games.

The group is made up of, among other prom­i­nent ath­letes, Sibu­siso Nz­ima (29), Michael Maz­ibuko (29), Lungile Gongqa (36) and Xolisa Tyali (27), who have all breached the 2:17:00 Olympic-qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard en­try time over the 42km dis­tance.

Another mem­ber, Folavio Se­hohle (25) is hop­ing to qual­ify in the 1 500m.

Ra­maala, him­self a mem­ber of the club’s Green Dream Team, said: “I had this idea in 2013 but it couldn’t take off. I couldn’t say no to Nick when he showed in­ter­est in my pro­gramme, be­cause this was long over­due.”

Bester said the club was aim­ing to help as many ath­letes as pos­si­ble to qual­ify for the Olympics.

“Hen­drick was ap­pointed head coach for this project and we be­lieve he is the guy who will bring the best out of the ath­letes. We try to sup­port the ath­letes in all their needs to achieve this by means of re­tain­ers, ac­com­mo­da­tion and food sub­si­dies, run­ning shoes, run­ning gear, sup­ple­ments, trans­port and [race] en­tries,” said Bester, a for­mer Com­rades Marathon cham­pion.

The group al­ready at­tained sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess this year when they claimed four places in the men’s top 10 at the San­lam Cape Town Marathon in Septem­ber.

Gongqa came sec­ond; Maz­ibuko third; Nz­ima sixth. Ra­maala se­cured the 10th spot, which also placed him first in the 40-49-year-old cat­e­gory.

“Group train­ing is very im­por­tant and it has been quite ex­cit­ing train­ing with this group,” said Ra­maala, fol­low­ing a morn­ing work­out at the Zoo Lake grounds in Jo­han­nes­burg on Thurs­day.

He de­scribed the scenic recre­ational fa­cil­ity fondly as his “spir­i­tual place”. He started pre­par­ing there in the 1990s and was still do­ing so dur­ing the time when he reached glory in the New York Marathon in 2004.

“I am his­tor­i­cally con­nected to this park; I grew up here and, hope­fully, it will rub off on my charges,” he chuck­led.

Ra­maala em­pha­sised long-term plan­ning as key to mould­ing top marathon run­ners.

“Put­ting up the pro­grammes and plan­ning is key if we are to achieve big things on the in­ter­na­tional stage. As lead­ers, we some­times have to self-crit­i­cise be­cause we al­ways pre­pare late in the build-up to ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion. I want to see this project suc­ceed­ing.”

Ra­maala, with a sea­son-best time of 2:17:12, has not ruled him­self out of con­tention for Rio, as he, to­gether with Gongqa, Maz­ibuko and Tyali, have en­tered the Mum­bai Marathon in In­dia on Jan­uary 17.

Nz­ima will race in Spain in Fe­bru­ary while Se­hohle will run a 10km race in An­gola on New Year’s Eve.

The group trains from Sun­day to Fri­day and takes Satur­days off, al­though coach Hen­drick Ra­maala trains ev­ery day.

Sun­days in­volve long runs of 40-42km.

The run­ners cover a dis­tance of 21km on week­days, with morn­ing runs that are made up of laps around Joburg’s Zoo Lake. The evening ses­sions in­volve speed run­ning.

“I used my con­nec­tion in Mum­bai and An­gola to get the guys in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure,” said Ra­maala.

“I am fin­ish­ing my ca­reer and it is now more about the new gen­er­a­tion.”

So far, Stephen Mokoka has run the fastest marathon time by a lo­cal this year – a 2:07:38 at the Shang­hai Marathon last month – and he is the first in the queue to Rio while Ra­maala’s charges, Gongqa (2:11:59), Maz­ibuko (2:12:29) and Nz­ima (2:15:38), are not far off.

“I am con­fi­dent they’ll make the team. We are just try­ing to use the [marathon] qual­i­fy­ing pe­riod be­fore the April cut-off date,” said Ra­maala.


THE GREEN DREAM TEAM Marathon leg­end Hen­drick Ra­maala (third from right), takes his Ned­bank Run­ning Club charges through their paces at Zoo Lake in Joburg. From left to right are Zongamele Dyubeni, Michael Papi Maz­ibuko, Maxime Chaume­ton, Katleho Mon­a­heng, Lungile Gongqa, Folavio Se­hohle, Ra­maala, Ja­cob Malefo and Xolisa Tyali

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