While there was some conflict a few years ago after international athletes were included in the Spar Grand Prix series, ultimately taking home a large cut of the lucrative prize purse, the formerly controversial matter seems to have been put to bed.
Following a cleansweep by Namibian athlete Helalia Johannes in 2019, rising Ethiopian star Tadu Nare dominated the women’s 10km road running campaign last year and retained her title this season by winning five of the six races and raking in more than R350 000 in prize money (including R190 000 for the overall Grand Prix victory).
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In Nare’s wake, foreign athletes are also starting to show more depth, with junior compatriot Selam Gebre taking second place in the final 2022 rankings and Johannes finishing third.
However, with most other big races in the country attracting elite international athletes, and with top South African athletes able to make money in overseas races, the presence of runaway foreigners has now been widely accepted by the local contingent in the Grand Prix campaign.
Kesa Molotsane, the first South African this season after finishing fourth overall, joined the growing chorus of SA women who were calling for strong international fields to continue lifting the standard on local soil.
“Their presence is influential in how we improve as South African women when it comes to road running,” Molotsane said at the Grand Prix Awards in Pretoria on Wednesday.
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“If we want to see this Grand Prix moving to greater heights in the future, I think we need our international sisters to play a part in it,” she added.
“We have to be open minded about this, so we don’t box ourselves within our borders, if we really want to see improvement.”
Organisers said the annual Grand Prix series would be open again to mass fields next year, after it was limited to invited athletes this season, and the sponsors confirmed the prize purse would be increased.
Grand Prix series category winners
Juniors (U-20) – Selam Gebre
Seniors (20-39) – Tadu Nare
Veterans (40-49) – Helalia Johannes
Masters (50-59) – Marili Munnik
Grandmasters (60+) – Judy Bird