RAMAALA TO RUN HAMBURG MARATHON

 
Updated: March 15, 2016

Veteran distance runner Hendrick Ramaala will make his final bid to qualify for a record fifth Olympic Games when he competes at the Hamburg Marathon in Germany next month.
The 44-year-old athlete was confirmed in the elite field for the annual race, to be held on April 17, on Tuesday.
Ramaala has made two attempts to book his place in the national squad for this year’s Rio spectacle though he failed on both occasions.
While he clocked a national veterans’ record of 2:17:12 in Cape Town in September, dipping inside the qualifying standard of 2:19:00, it was not enough to place him among the top three athletes.
He went on to compete at the Mumbai Marathon in January – a race he won 12 years ago – and finished well down the field in a pedestrian time of 2:33:38.
As things stand, ahead of the qualifying deadline at the end of April, the top three athletes in line for selection are Stephen Mokoka (2:07:40), Sibusiso Nzima (2:11:42) and Lungile Gongqa (2:11:59).
With Mokoka expected to focus on the 10 000m in Rio, however, Michael Mazibuko (2:12:29) has been the next best performer during the qualifying window.
This means, provided the leading athletes are all available for selection and officials do not select any wild cards in the three-man marathon team, Ramaala will have to run 2:12:28 or faster to book his place in the team.
While this is well outside his personal best of 2:06:55, set in London in 2006, the former New York Marathon winner has not run faster than 2:12:00 since 2009.
Additionally, the likes of Olympic contenders Lusapho April (Hannover) and Desmond Mokgobu (Santiago) are also planning to join the fray in their own qualifying attempts at international races next month, making it even more challenging for Ramaala to edge out his younger compatriots and earn a place in the squad.
Should he achieve the feat, he will become the first SA athlete to compete at five editions of the Olympics, a record which freestyle swimmer Roland Schoeman is also hoping to achieve.
Ramaala faces a world-class line-up in Hamburg, with six men in the field who have run under 2:07:30, spearheaded by former World Championships bronze medallist Tadese Tola of Ethiopia who set his career record of 2:04:49 in Dubai two years ago.
“We are excited at prospects for the race. If conditions are good, we can expect to see very good times,” said race director Frank Thaleiser.