COMRADES Marathon winner Ludwick Mamabolo was so determined to win that he took three months’ unpaid leave to focus on his training.
Employed by Absa in the loans division in Kempton Park, Mamabolo, who has a BCom degree and is studying to become a chartered accountant, became the first South African since 2005 to win the marathon in Durban yesterday.
The last South African to win the event was Sipho Ngomane from Mpumalanga.
“I’m very happy to have won this race. It is a dream come true for me,” Mamabolo said.
“It pained me every day when I looked at the papers and saw that no South African had been tipped to win this race.”
Mamabolo’s parents’ home in Turfloop outside Polokwane was flooded by relatives, family friends and neighbours after he was crowned the new Comrades Marathon king.
Later in the day, Mamabolo’s family were invited to the royal house in Segopye by Kgoshigadi Mposho Mamabolo (a female chief) to congratulate them.
Mamabolo’s uncle and top development soccer coach Jerry Ramohlale was on hand to welcome the well-wishers.
“I could not believe it when Ludwick told me he had applied for three months’ unpaid leave to come to Limpopo to train,” Ramohlale said.
“We have been getting congratulatory messages from the Limpopo provincial government and many other people.”
The runner’s father, Jerry, said: “Ludwick had never let us down, we are very proud of him. We are planning a big party to welcome him back in Limpopo.”
Ludwick’s younger sister, Mokgadi, said: “Ludwick has been telling us he would win. He phoned me immediately after crossing the finish line to brag about his achievements.”
The first black Comrades Marathon winner, Sam Tshabalala, showered Mamabolo with praise for restoring the pride of the Rainbow Nation.
“After finishing second in 2010, it is clear he went back home to work on his tactics and techniques,” Tshabalala said.
“I was highly impressed by his take-off, unlike novice Gert Thys who started so fast as if he was doing a standard marathon [42.2km].
“When he took over the lead, you could see he knew what he was doing. The man did not panic at all, he was comfortable all the way.”
Additional reporting by Ramatsiyi Moholoa and Sbu Mjikeliso