Johannesburg, South Africa - Two-times SPAR Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) took another giant stride at the weekend towards claiming this year’s Grand Prix prize of a Nissan Micra with a comfortable victory in the Durban SPAR Women’s 10-km Challenge on Sunday.
It was Kalmer’s third successive Challenge win this year, after her victories in the Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay legs.
Although she failed to improve on last year’s winning time, Kalmer now has 80 points – 26 ahead of her nearest rival, defending Grand Prix champion Irvette van Blerk, who has also won the Grand Prix twice. Van Blerk finished third in all three races to accumulate a total of 54 points. Zintle Xiniwe (Mr Price) is in third position, with 51 points, after coming fourth in Cape Town, second in Port Elizabeth, and sixth in Durban. Portia Ngwenya (Transnet) has 47 points and Christine Kalmer, (Nedbank CGA) has 43. Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora, who finished second in Cape Town and in Durban, does not qualify for the Grand Prix because she is not a South African citizen.
Despite her massive lead, Kalmer is not taking anything for granted. “Anything can happen between now and the end of the year,” she said. “But I aim to run the last two Challenge races, in Pretoria in August and in Johannesburg in October,” she said.
Before that, Kalmer and Van Blerk, as well as Tanith Maxwell, who came ninth in Durban, have a lot of their minds – the three will represent South Africa in the Women’s Marathon at the Olympic Games in London on August 5.
Kalmer and Van Blerk had differing views on the effect training for the Olympic Marathon had on their performance in the Challenge races. “I switched to marathons last year, and battled a bit in the shorter races, but now I have settled down,” said Kalmer. “I love the Challenge races, because they help me to focus. There always seems to be a SPAR race to prepare for, and they have been invaluable as part of my training.”
Van Blerk said she was still trying to get used to training for the Marathon, and felt this had affected her performance in shorter races. “I quite like the Marathon, but wouldn’t like to do too many,” she said. “Next year, I’ll be able to focus on 10km races again, and will do my best to win the Grand Prix again.”
Annie Bothma, with a win in Port Elizabeth and second place in Cape Town and Durban, leads the Grand Prix ladder in the junior category, with 13 points, with Thabisa Sirayi, who earned bonus points for winning the Durban race in record time, in second place on 10 points.
There is a close tussle in the veteran category, where just one point separates Boxer runners Ronel Thomas and Janene Carey, who have 24 and 23 points respectively. Multiple Comrades Marathon Gold Medallist Grace de Oliveira leads the master category, with 20 points after record-breaking victories in Port Elizabeth and Durban. Olga Howard, who won the Cape Town race, but did not compete in the other two, is in second place with 10 points.
Although she did not run in Durban, evergreen RAC runner Sonja Laxton, who has 20 points, is well ahead of her nearest rival Lien Botha, who won the Durban race.
Nedbank CGA (131 points), whose runners took the first four places in Durban on Sunday, have a massive lead of 34 points over Boxer (97), with Bidvest CGA a distance third with 66 points.
SPAR Grand Prix Standings after three races:
Open: 1. Rene Kalmer 80, 2. Irvette van Blerk 54, 3. Zintle Xiniwe 51, 4. Portia Ngwenya 47, 5. Christine Kalmer 43
Junior: 1. Annie Bothma 13, 2. Thabisa Sirayi 10; 3. Pamela Mtshemla 5
Veteran: 1. Ronel Thomas 24; 2. Janene Carey 23; 3. Sheryl de Lange, Grizelda Pietersen, Shani Silver 3
Master: 1. Grace de Oliveira 20; 2. Olga Howard 10; 3. Annetjie Botes 8
Grandmaster: 1. Sonja Laxton 20; 2. Lien Botha 10; 3. Veronica van Niekerk 9