Harare – Eighty-eight seconds. That was the difference between Namibia’s Tomas Hilifa Rainhold securing an Olympic marathon ticket and Zimbabwe’s Ngonidzashe Ncube missing it.
The two runners were separated by a margin just shy of one-and-a-half minutes at the Siena Marathon in Italy last weekend.
Rainhold will now represent Namibia in the classic Olympic event at the rescheduled Tokyo Games this year.
In the women’s meet, two South Africans made the cut for the quadrennial fiesta: Gerder Steyn and Irvette Van Zyl.
And Steyn sealed her berth in fine style, setting a new South Africa national marathon record of 2:25.28. The previous mark of 2:26.35 was set by Colleen de Reuck at the Berlin Marathon way back in 1996.
Steyn’s coach Nick Bester, said before Sunday’s race: “Both Gerda and Irvette’s training went well, and they are looking for some good times. Gerda just missed out on the South African marathon record last year in London when the conditions were not great.
“I expect her to run a lot faster this time round, so that is the goal, and for Irvette, it’s to get under the Olympic qualifying time.”
Now Steyn is headed for a maiden Olympic Games while Van Zyl will be at the biggest world’s biggest athletics event.
While the likes of Rainhold, Steyn and Van Zyl are celebrating, fellow Southern African marathon runner Ncube from Zimbabwe is licking his wounds.
After the Siena Marathon, a sobbing Ncube said: “The climatic conditions weren’t favourable. It was too cold and I had not fully acclimatized.
“I am in real pain after failing to make it. I really wanted to make it to Japan but well, that’s it.”
The 34-year old Zimbabwean is still contemplating whether to have another shot in the last available Olympic qualifying marathon in South Africa next month.
“In marathon you need more than just six weeks to recover in between races. I will see but it doesn’t help me or my country to just go out there and make the numbers. I will consider depending in how I would have recovered.”