Van Zyl and Phalula chasing Grand Prix crown

Updated: October 8, 2016

​The Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series will come down to the wire on Sunday, with Irvette van Zyl looking to hold off a challenge from defending champion Lebogang Phalula at the fifth and final leg in Johannesburg. 

After winning the first three legs of the campaign, Van Zyl missed the fourth race in Centurion last month with a foot injury, but she remained six points clear of Phalula in the Grand Prix standings.

Having returned to training, after the niggle forced her to withdraw on the eve of the Olympic marathon in Rio in August, Van Zyl confirmed she would line up this weekend in search of her third series title, and her first since 2011.

“I’m not where I would like to be, but at least I am running pain free,” Van Zyl said.

“I’m going to give it my all on Sunday. I really want to win the Grand Prix to make up for my disappointment in having to withdraw from the Olympic marathon.

“I need to finish in the top five and hope that Lebogang doesn’t get a bonus point. Then I think I am safe.”

Phalula clocked 2:38:00 on her 42km debut at the Cape Town Marathon last month, but she won the Joburg 10k CityRun the following week to indicate she was still a force in the closing stages of the season.

Phalula’s twin sister, Diana-Lebo, collapsed on the finish line and had to be taken to the medical tent for treatment at the inaugural Joburg CityRun, but she confirmed she had recovered.

Lying fourth in the standings, Diana-Lebo Phalula said she and her sibling were ready to put up a fight, with third-placed Christine Kalmer also eager to rake in more points.

“I collapsed because I didn’t eat anything before the race, but I am better now and I won’t make that mistake again,” Phalula said.

“Lebogang and I are both ready to do well.”

Zimbabwean athlete Rutendo Nyahora, who won the Centurion leg, was also expected to put up a challenge at the race, though she did not qualify for the series title which was open only to local runners.

Over 12 000 women are expected to take part in the annual women’s contest at the Wanderers. Late entries will be accepted at registration until 4pm on Saturday.