Leonid Shvetsov does it again

Russian athlete Leonid Shvetsov broke the ‘up-run” record at the 2008 Comrades Marathon on Sunday by 47 seconds with a winning time of 5:24,48. Shvetsov broke the ‘down” record with his win last year. He walks away with R470 000 for winning the race and breaking the record.

The 39-year-old doctor, who stopped practising so he could race full-time, beat Vladimir Kotov’s record of 5:25,33, set in 2000.

Almost 14 minutes behind Shvestsov was Polish runner Jaroslaw Janicki (5:38,28), a previous winner in 1999. Running into the packed Oval stadium in Pietermaritzburg to cheers from the crowd came Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi (5:39,39) in third place.

Oleg Kharitonov, winner in 2006, came in fourth followed by last year’s runner-up Grigory Murzin, running in Nedbank colours for the first time.

The first South African to win a gold medal was seasoned campaigner Harmans Mokgadi (5:47,09) running in the new Nedbank colours.

General manager Nick Bester was thrilled with his placing as the club was formed only six months ago. The club fielded the biggest number of entrants — with 380 runners — on the road.

”We fielded a very young team this year and didn’t think we had a winner but we are delighted to have the first South African medal winner come from our club.

”Harmans has been in fine form this season with wins at this year’s 50km Loskop Marathon as well as the Ottosdal Half Marathon,” said Bester.

It is the first time in the history of the Comrades that there was not a South African in the top five men’s placings.

In the women’s race, Russian Elena Nurgalieva came first with 6:14,36.

Smiling after the race, she said: ”I am very, very happy and satisfied with my race.”

Nurgalieva tripped over a cat’s eye at about the 10km mark and her knee began to bleed.

”I felt some pain but the pain still allowed me to run,” she said.

Twin sister Olesya Nurgalieva came in second (6:15,51) followed by fellow compatriot Tatyana Zhirkova (6:17,44).

”It was a very difficult race. It wasn’t easy in the hot weather. I ran with my sister to win the race but not to break any records.

”The two of us controlled the race from about 21km before the finish. After Polly Shorts, I realised my sister was in trouble but Tatyana was not far behind, so I decided to run alone. Now I am the winner,” said the elated Elena.

The two sisters usually run together, but Elena had victory on her mind. ”As I was running ahead, I was saying to myself ‘please, please, come on’ hoping my sister would catch up to me.”

The Russian Olympic committee has already picked its marathon team for the Beijing Olympics, but the sisters said it was their dream to qualify for London in 2010.

They are better runners over long distances and are still four minutes out of the standard qualifying time of 2:24. Olesya’s best time over 42km is 2:29,35 and Elena’s 2:29,45, but they hope to improve and achieve their dream.

The first South African woman home, in sixth place, was Riana van Niekerk (6:43,30). She said she was very happy with the race.

”I can’t describe what I’m feeling. Everything went according to plan,” said the diminutive athlete. ”I felt good and ran my own race.” – Sapa

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Jenny Bernstein
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