WINDHOEK, Aug 6–When the starter pistol sounds at Sapporo Odori Park on 7 August in Japan; Namibia and South Africa will see their best chance at the Olympic Games with Nedbank running club green dream team runners Helalia Johannes, Gerda Steyn, and Irvette Van Zyl toeing the start line.
After making history by becoming Namibia’s first female gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games, Helalia has raised the bar even further by smashing three Namibian records and qualifying for the 2020 Olympics. Johannes will be going into the event as a firm medal contender. After collecting a bronze medal in the very hot and humid Doha World Championships, Johannes set a scintillating 2:19:52 national record in Valencia last year. This will be her 3rd Olympic Games appearance. Helalia won the previous Spar series of races in outstanding style for the Nedbank Running Club. Joining her from the club will be Gerda Steyn and Ivette Van Zyl.
Coached by Nedbank Running Club national team manager Nick Bester, the team is in superb form and looking for a good result. “I must say the team is in phenomenal shape,” says a confident Bester. “We changed the program a little bit in making the hard sessions extremely hard, but then adding in more rest in between for them to recover well and they’ve responded well to the change.”
Having guided Steyn to a national record in the marathon and Van Zyl to a new personal best and Olympic qualifier from the same event in Sienna, Italy, the training is obviously working and is evident in the results being achieved. “Overall, the team is extremely strong and the speed is there. We are just hoping for a relaxed last week prior to the race with no unexpected health problems and we are taking all precautions not to get sick in any way”
When asked what the plan is, Bester smiled. “It will all depend on the weather conditions, but I believe that the team is definitely in the marathon record shape so if they run that time, we are confident of a good placing. With the World Women`s World record at 2 hours 14 minutes 04 seconds by Brigid Kosgei and the Olympics’ Record standing at 2 hours 23 minutes 07 seconds by Tiki Gelana which was achieved in the 2012 London Olympics it shows us that the Olympic marathon is most of the times a tactical race and the Olympic winning time is not too far-fetched for our Nedbank star athletes. Taking into consideration that Sapporo is close to sea level at 29 meters above I am confident that the team will make us proud”
The team arrived in Sapporo last Saturday, a week ahead of their race after a short stay at the Olympic village. “I’m happy that I at least got to experience the Olympic village a little bit,” said Steyn who is at her first Olympic Games.
“I am so proud to say that Nedbank RC will have three ladies in the Olympic Marathon,” said Bester. “We are excited to watch them and thank the support of all our sponsors who always ensure that they are well supported.”
The women’s Olympic Games Marathon will be broadcast live on SABC Sport and Supersport with coverage starting at 00:00 on Saturday morning.
Photo caption: Helalia Johannes.