THREE time SPAR Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl will have to beat a strong field to break into the podium at the Tshwane leg of the women’s 10km race at the Irene Research Centre (IRC) on Saturday, as she makes her return from injury.
The 35-year-old missed the Mbombela leg through an ankle injury, and she will be determined to make a strong return in Tshwane, eyeing a place on the podium.
Initially, van Zyl’s chances of getting a podium finish looked high with fellow Nedbank Running Club teammate Helalia Johannes originally set to miss the Tshwane race – the fourth in the six-race series – because of her Commonwealth Games commitments.
This would have left her other two Nedbank teammates Tadu Nare and Salem Gebre, both from Ethiopia, as the only real challengers and guaranteed a spot on the podium for the fastest South African runner in Tshwane.
But Johannes’s surprise last-minute entry into the Tshwane leg just a week after a gruelling 42.2km Marathon in Birmingham, where she took the Commonwealth bronze medal in two hours 28:39, makes things tricky for Van Zyl and the rest of the Mzansi runners.
It remains to be seen whether Johannes will be fully recovered but one thing is for sure, she has no intentions of allowing defending champion Nare to coast to another series win and clinch the whopping R195 000 prize.
This means Van Zyl and the likes of 2017 winner Kesa Molotsane (Murray and Roberts), 2018 winner, Glenrose Xaba (Boxer), the Phalula twins, Lebogang and Diana-Lebo, who won the SPAR Grand Prix titles in 2015 and 2016, will have their work cut out again.
“It’s unfortunate that I had to miss the Mbombela race, but I’m now back running again and smiling, and I’m looking forward taking part in the Tshwane leg,” said van Zyl.
“The competition is tough, I know, but I will be giving it my best. My fitness is picking up again since I lost some after the injury. But I don’t want to rush it and hurt my foot again. I have been training very hard, and I will always give 110%. So I’m really excited to continue the momentum that I started the series with.”