by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – WITH 15 straight victories between them at the tournament, Helalia Johannes and Tadu Nare have spun the Spar ladies Grand Prix into a two-horse race.
Not since 2019 has any individual besides the Namibian and Ethiopian nationals, respectively, won South Africa’s prime women athletics event.
This year, they have always exchanged first and second position, since Johannes’ returned to action to this 10km challenge held around Mzansi.
Dethroning the Nedbank Athletics Club duo is an insurmountable task for the rest of the chasing pack, except for one Ethiopian teenager, who also is part of the stable.
Rising prospect, Selam Gebre (19), is raising her hand.
With three successive third-place finishes, she has turned this year’s Spar-sponsored race into an all-Nedbank Running Club affair.
Apparently, she is the only athlete mounting a serious challenge to the crown Johannes and Nare have made their preserve.
Last weekend, the status quo was maintained as defending champion Nare won the Spar series in Mbombela on 32 mins 43 sec, ahead of Johannes (33:02) and Gebre was ten seconds off.
Prior, in the opening leg in Gqeberha, 2019 series winner Johannes (31:53) outran her teammate and 2021 series champion Nare (32:11) to take victory.
Gebre (32:23) finished third in Gqeberha.
In the second race in Durban, Nare (31:50) ousted Johannes (31:59) to take victory. Again, Gebre (32:17) claimed bronze in third.
To put that dominance into context, Nare won all the six races in 2021. Johannes triumphed the entire series in 2019.
The Namibians’ clean sweep was before the outbreak of the COVID-19 led to the postponement of the exclusive competition, in line with the South African government’s lockdown.
Nick Bester, the Nedbank Running Club General Manager and coach, concurred it will be an uphill order for the Ethiopian and Namibian stars to be dethroned.
He nonetheless tipped Gebre to eventually assume surpass the well-decorated pair.
“Salem’s times areis getting closer to them,” Bester said in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
Bester believes Gebre has age on her side, hence she is one to watch.
“She is still a junior,” the legendary Bester said of the teenager.
Meanwhile, Nare (21) is the favourite for a third title when the Tshwane edition takes place on August 6.
This will be in the absence of Johannes (41) who will be away in Birmingham to defend her Commonwealth Games Marathon title she clinched in the Gold Coast in 2018.
Thus, the Spar edition in Tshwane is shaping up to be a two-horse all-Ethiopian encounter between Gebre and Nare.
– CAJ News