SA team prepare for battle in  Kampala

Updated: March 25, 2017

Elroy Gelant will lead the charge on Sunday, as the SA team takes aim at its first ever medal at the World Cross Country Championships, with a 20-member national squad turning out at the biennial off-road showpiece in Kampala, Uganda.
Though he proved last month he was in form by clocking 28:16.54 over 10 000m in windy conditions at the ASA Speed Series meeting in Durban, after returning from a training camp in Kenya, Gelant will have to grit his teeth in what is expected to be a brutal 10km battle in the senior men’s race.
The national 5 000m record holder, who said in the build-up he was targeting a top-five finish, will face a field spearheaded by Kenyan defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Gelant, who finished 20th in Bydgoszcz in 2013 in his only previous appearance at the World Cross Country Championships, will be backed by compatriots David Manja, who won the SA title in George in September, Precious Mashele, Joel Mmone and Thabang Mosiako in the team competition.
The national women’s team will face an even tougher challenge in the senior 10km contest.
Led by national champion Kesa Molotsane, who has shown good form on the domestic circuit this season, the squad also includes Glenrose Xaba, Andrea Steyn, Sherilene Gelderblom and Louisa Leballo.
They are likely to struggle, however, against a line-up which features title holder Agnes Tirop, returning in search of back-to-back crowns, Olympic 1 500m champion Faith Kipyegon, a former two-time world junior cross country champion, and African Championships 10 000m gold medallist Alice Aprot.
South Africa will also be represented by Tumi Lephotho, Dais Malebana, Ryan Mphahlele, Pakiso Mthembu and Kabelo Seboko in the junior men’s 8km race.
The junior women’s team includes Nicole van der Merwe, Simonay Weitsz, Cherry-Lee Schoeman and promising 15-year-old athletes Nicole Louw and Lyndi Roelofse.
While Zola Budd, Elana Meyer and Colleen de Reuck all finished among the top 10 in the senior women’s division at various editions in the Nineties, no SA athlete or team has ever earned a medal at the global off-road spectacle.
Budd won gold in Lisbon in 1985 and Neuchatel in 1986, though she was competing for Great Britain at the time, and in 2002 De Reuck earned bronze in Dublin after switching allegiance to the United States.
In SA colours, Budd came closest to stepping on the podium by finishing fourth in Amorebieta in 1993.

Programme for the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala on 26 March, 2017 (SA times):

1pm – mixed relay, 8km
1.30pm – junior women, 6km
2.10pm – junior men, 8km
2.55pm – senior women, 10km
3.55pm – senior men, 10km

* The event will be broadcast live on SuperSport 9