GORDON LESETEDI is in no doubt that the time is ripe for him to finally win the Comrades Marathon. Going into his ninth start of the Ultimate Human race, the athlete trained by the revered John Hamlett who has produced a handful of champions believes he is ready to shine.

Positioned fourth in last year’s race to bring to three the number of his gold medals, Lesetedi believes it is time he reigned supreme.

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“Ke nako,” Lesetedi says during our telephonic interview. He is in camp at high-altitude Dullstroom in Mpumalanga where champion-producing coach Hamlett is sharpening him up for the ultimate road running battle on Sunday.

“I am saying it is time to win Comrades. That’s the plan for this year. Things have gone well. Training is done and I am just waiting for Friday to go to Durban.”

GORDON LESETEDI TO RUN HIS NINTH COMRADES MARATHON 

Lesetedi will be running his 9th Comrades this weekend and with three gold medals to his name – 2018, 2019, 2023 – he is a serious contender for glory.

He finished fourth last year and says that great run which saw him narrowly miss out on the podium places has given him confidence for this edition.

“I am full of confidence because of what I achieved last year. I realised from that race that I am capable of winning this race. The key will be to stick with the leading bunch until the 75km because that’s when the podium positions are decided. If you can be strong around that mark, you are in with a good chance.”

His belief in his chances also stem from the fact that he has been there and thereabout the gold medal positions for a while now.

“I have consistently been in the top ten since 2018 so I think this year is my time.”

He admits though that his Up Run time, particularly from the previous race back in 2019 is not the kind that will send his adversaries taking him too seriously.

“I know I don’t have a good time for the Up Run. I ran 5:52:40 in 2019 when I finished in 9th place,” he said of the gold medal he won after debutant Nkosikhona Mhlakwana’s legs went all jelly on him with 500m to go and he overtook him “I was tiring at the end but since then I have worked hard and in the last two races I finished stronger.”

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Those races were Down Runs though and aware of that he has worked even harder this year – going into camp a week before his teammates ‘to push a little bit more than I did in the past’.

And with champion-maker John Hamlett as his coach, Lesetedi has good reason to believe he can be victorious on Sunday.

“I was drawn to Comrades after seeing Andrew Kelehe win the race. But he told me I was still young and that I needed to choose between soccer and running because I was not going to be able to be successful doing both,” the man nicknamed Zane for his football prowess after former Mamelodi Sundowns superstar Zane Moosa explained “And now I am trained by the man who helped not only Andrew but a few others to win the Comrades.”

The athlete from Sekhing village in Taung, North-West believes the key to his success will be taking Hamlett on his word, after tall the man has a proven track record – the former colonel having produced at least four Comrades champions – Kelehe and his younger brother Gift as well as David Gatebe and Ann Ashworth.

“We just have to listen to what he says, we must do and eat what he says because when you see the people who went through his coaching and listened to him and succeeded, there is pleasure in knowing that his ways work. When you do what you want and not what he tells you are defying what has been proven to work, then you will not achieve like those who came before you. I want to be like Andrew and gift and the others that coach worked with.”

And that is to become a Comrades champion. And he is in no doubt that ‘ke nako.’

By Matshelane Mamabolo