Who is going to challenge at OMTOM 2016?
05 February 2016
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Brad Brown: Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and in the build up to the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon for 2016 there’s obviously lots of talk about the elite field, both the men’s and women’s.
Last year, 2015 was a fantastic race, particularly from the women’s race and the man who knows everything about the elite fields and particularly this year of the 2016 edition is Manfred Siedler. Manfred, welcome onto Old Mutual Live again, nice to catch up.
Manfred Seidler: Yeah, Brad, always good.
BB: Manfred, it’s obviously still early days and it’s difficult to know who is going to be the names to watch, but very often it is very similar from year to year. Let’s start with the ladies and let’s start with Caroline Wostmann.
MS: The answer is yes.
BB: Whatever the question! She’s working hard, she is definitely working hard. She has goals, whether she can defend her title, do you think she can? You said yes, do you think she can defend the title and is that her goal?
Can Caroline Wostmann defend her title?
MS: The answer to the first question of that part is no, well the answer to the second part is no, rather. She’s not out to defend her title –
BB: As a goal.
MS: Correct. 2015 was all about Comrades. The Old Mutual Two Ocean Marathon was an absolute bonus, it was never planned, it just fell into her lap, which was phenomenal. The goal for 2016 is Comrades Marathon for her, as it was last year.
Knowing Caroline like you and I know her and most of us who follow her progress, she’s not going to come just to jog along. She is going to give it a good tonk. So a top 10 would be at least expected, but she’s not going for the win, no. Can she defend her title?
I think the question really there is now kind of academic, but in all honesty, if she was going for it and she trained specifically for it, I would say yes. But given the fact that she’s not focusing on it, no. There are some really, really, really strong runners coming through, which will be released in due course. I have spoken to them and they’ve committed to me, but until we have the official entries, obviously we can’t put them out yet, but some very strong names.
BB: We’ll talk South African for the moment, but strong international field once again.
The internationals will be out in force
MS: Absolutely, always. Nedbank always brings them out, don’t they? I mean there’s even rumours going around and talk going around about the course record and that’s quite an interesting debate and topic to have. Remember, the course record is on the previous route, which I think is a lot tougher than what it is now. You can debate until the cows come home. A lot of people turn around and say, no, the current route is harder.
So, there is, once again, talk about chasing a course record, a million rand up for grabs yet again, put out by Old Mutual, fantastic effort and I like to see that kind of thing. I like to see incentives. I think our athletes in general, not just South Africa athletes, need to be chasing. They need to be chasing times, they need to be chasing performances and not just pitch up and as they say in track ‘stick and kick’. We want to see excitement, we want to see people chasing times, chasing each other –
BB: Take it by the scruff of the neck and just really do it.
BB: Caroline’s win in 2015, how important is that for South African women’s running, just from a belief perspective?
Caroline has set the tone for SA women
MS: It was phenomenal, the entire 2015 for her was an absolute dream and she is such an inspirational person. You’ve recently moved down to Cape Town, but during the time that you were up in Johannesburg, you would have seen her at races and people come up to her, arbitrary people is the wrong word. But people who are back of the packers, people who just slog it out there and they go and they just turn around and say: you’ve been such an inspiration to us.
We look up to you, it’s because of you that we get out on the road and plod and slog and do it to the best of our abilities. She’s been a huge success story. I really, really hope that she ends up successfully defending her Comrades title. It’s going to be really tough, purely because it’s a fantastic fairy tale story, but even if she doesn’t, Caroline Wostmann has been a phenomenal story and it started at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon.
BB: I almost get the Frith van der Merwe feel about her, from the late 1980’s, but let’s talk men’s field. Obviously still too early to give real concrete names, but from a men’s perspective, what are we looking at?
What the men may bring in 2016
MS: Again, which I really quite like about what’s happening in this year, once I’ve sifted through the entries, both men’s and women, we are now developing a scenario where we have people focusing on the Big C, people focusing on the Old Mutual Two Oceans. We never used to have that in the past.
It now seems to me that you’re getting athletes who are targeting this race and they’re gunning for it. Two years ago Hendrick Ramaala came and finished second. The next year he was targeting a course record. That’s beginning to happen, which is fantastic for this race because the two races are completely different.
The one is a 56 and the other one is 90km, you cannot possibly want to turn around and put them into the same boat. They really are two separate races and I like the fact that a lot of guys are turning around and lady runners, and turning around and saying: we’re targeting this race. This is the race, this is the one we’re gunning for, which gives both races a lot more credibility.
I think that’s important, especially in South African context of ultra-running, where it’s big. The rest of the world it’s not that big, but in South Africa it’s huge, for various reasons. I think it’s important that that happens, that both of them have their separate identities. Both are viewed as completely different races and we have specialist athletes competing in them because that just raises the level all round. For me as an elite lover, as an elitist, as I call myself, I absolutely love that.
BB: And the half has really come into its own as well over the last few years and we’re getting great athletes coming and running that half and racing it hard.
Half field not the strongest this year
MS: Absolutely. Unfortunately, this year we’re not going to have some of the big names, Stephan Mokoka, Gladwin Mzazi –
BB: Why is that Manfred?
MS: It’s on the same day as the World Half Marathon Champs and they have been selected to go. So the Phalula twins have been selected to go. We will have Rene Kalmer, we will have her sister Christine Kalmer. I really hope that, Rene’s struggling to get back into the shape that she was a few years ago, she’s been struggling with injury. But it seems that she’s gotten over that and she’s chasing an Olympic qualifier and she’s running out of time. I really hope, this race is going to be a big boost for her.
On the men’s side we’ve got a couple of others, Nedbank once again brining in a couple of people. But the half marathon has always been an incredibly important race for our, just call them shorter distance elite guys. Lasapo April, Steve Mokoka, Elroy Gelant; also on the women’s front, Rene, the Phalula twins, Christine Kalmer, etc.
BB: Irvette van Zyl who is running unbelievably well at the moment.
MS: She will be here.
MS: And that’s very important to her, for her build up to London Olympic Marathon qualifier and as you said, she ran a phenomenal time the other day. The half marathon has developed into a very prestigious event for our, let’s call them longer middle distance athletes; and has become a really, really prestigious event and it’s really good to see that because it just adds so much more value to the event.
As I said, it clashes with the World Half Marathon Champs, there was some funny post on Facebook where some of the guys were saying: guys, you must come run here, it’s R25 000 prize money and I’m going, let me think about this, you finish in the top 10 at the World Half Marathon Champs, it’s not even a debate.
So somebody turned around and said, I think it was Tebogo Masehla, South African 3000m steeple chase record holder and she said to this one guy: so, should we change the date of the World Half Marathon Champs to suit you? It’s amazing and it’s fascinating to see how people get so into this.
BB: You know what, it’s a good thing, it just shows that people are passionate about the sport and what we do. That is good news. Manfred Seidler, always great to catch up and we’ll definitely do it again before the expo to find out who has confirmed. We’ll chat lots at the live broadcast at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon expo as well and on race day too, I’m sure. Thank you so much for your time, much appreciated.
MS: Always a pleasure.