Xaba returns to the top of the podium in Cape Town

athletics24 March 2024 10:55
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Glenrose Xaba © Gallo Images

Former Grand Prix Champion Glenrose Xaba dug deep in the closing stages of the race on Sunday, producing a late kick to stun her opposition as she stormed to victory at the opening leg of the SPAR Grand Prix 10km series in Cape Town.

After taking the lead around the halfway mark, Xaba slipped off the pace with less than two kilometres remaining, with Ethiopian teenager Diniya Kedir Abaraya opening a gap, but the South African star clawed her way back to move clear again, crossing the finish line in 32:17.

Abaraya held on to finish second in 32:24, with compatriot Getenesh Agafaw taking third place in 33:02.

Xaba, who became the first South African athlete in five years to win a SPAR Grand Prix race, was delighted with her result, which was made evident by her emotional celebration at the finish.

With four races left in the 2024 campaign, the 29-year-old distance runner took the early lead in the popular annual series as she looked to reclaim the overall title she secured in 2018. She also earned R43,000 in prize money for her efforts.

"It was a good race and it went according to the plan I had discussed with my coach (Violet Semenya)," Xaba said afterwards.

"When Abaraya started sprinting with more than a kilometre left I was surprised and thought she had misjudged the finish, but I did not give up. I've been working hard on my finishing speed, which helped in the end, and I was very excited to get the win."

While the SPAR Grand Prix series had been dominated by foreign athletes in recent years, Xaba led the charge for local runners as they bucked the trend, with eight South African women finishing in the top 10.

Semenya was delighted with Xaba's result, as she showed superb form in the early stages of a long season, proving she was ready to represent her country at the World Cross Country Championships taking place in Belgrade, Serbia on 30 March. Semenya was also pleased to see other SA athletes taking advantage of the ideal conditions and setting fast times through the field.

"I'm overwhelmed and very happy. I was a little surprised with Glenrose's position, but not really surprised by her time, and it shows she is on the right track," Semenya said.

"The SPAR Grand Prix opens doors for many women in South Africa and it has been very important in helping Glenrose become the mature athlete she is today. She is very hungry for success, and she is getting better and better."

Abanaya admitted she struggled in the latter stages of the race after launching an early kick, and while she felt she gave the victory away, the 18-year-old athlete was satisfied with her result.

"It was a wonderful race. The weather was great and the environment was amazing," said Abanaya, who won the junior division ahead of Agafaw.

"I didn't time my race properly. I should have won, but I took off too early. It's a learning curve for me and I know next time I'll do better, but all in all, I'm very happy with the race and with my time."