Team SA captains Bongmusa Mthembu and Salome Cooper will use hard lessons from the past to inspire teammates in Team SA’s quest for glory at the IAU 100km World Championships in Croatia on Saturday.
The two lead a nine-member South African team that jetted out of the country on Tuesday night for the global event in Sveti Martin na Muri.
Mthembu won individual silver at the last 100km global showpiece in Spain two years ago, while Cooper was part of an SA side that ran in the Netherlands seven years ago, although it was an unofficial event.
“I made a mistake in the last Championships and it was mostly [the lack of] experience; I believe I did my homework and I’m well prepared,” said Mthembu during a sendoff conference at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
The three-time Comrades Marathon champion is part of the men’s team that has his Arthur Ford club mates Nkosinathi Duma and Best Ngwenya, as well as the Nedbank Running Club duo of Claude Moshiywa and Best Ngwenya.
“What is important is to work as a team, especially in the first half of the race. Claude knows how to plan for longer distances and it’s to gel him in.
“We still need to work on our minds because this is an international event and the nerves will be there.”
Mthembu warned of the threat posed by the Japanese, Koreans and Croatians because “they work together and that’s why they beat us towards the end of the race”.
Meanwhile, Comrades gold medallist Cooper said: “I am more confident than what I used to be. I think it’s got to do with age – strong mind and the body just follows.
The 43-year-old, who also won the Om Die Dam 50km race earlier this year, leads the ladies team that is made up of Fikile Mbuthuma, Deanne Horn (both Nedbank) and Lisa Collett (Boxer Club).
Relating her previous experience where she finished the race despite suffering from a hamstring injury, Cooper said: “A team was sent to the Netherlands [in 2011] but it was unofficial.
“The only positive thing I can use from then was mind preparation for running foreign laps. The [100km race] works in your mind very hard.”
Mthembu and Cooper also hailed the organisation and support from Athletics SA despite having just three months to prepare after finishing the Comrades in June.