Stephen Mokoka hits jackpot and breaks marathon record
Father-to-be is now eyeing Tokyo Olympics
Stephen Mokoka is R480,000 richer following his record-breaking victory in the Cape Town Marathon, which doubled as the SA marathon championship, on Sunday.
The 33-year-old, who has represented SA internationally in road, cross country and track events, pocketed R265,000 for winning the IAAF Gold label status event, R100,000 for being the first South African, R100,000 for breaking the course record (clocked in at 2hr 08min 31 sec) and R15,000 for dipping under 2hr 10min.
His record shaved 10sec of the previous best, which was set by Ethiopia’s Asefa Negewo in 2017. Add sponsorship deals and other endorsements and it is a life-changing sum of money.
It comes at the perfect time for Mokoka as he and his wife, Zintle, are expecting their first son any day now.
"Life couldn’t be any better right now," said Mokoka. "I had a great race without problems and have to thank the team for the roles they played to make it all possible, not to mention the pacemakers, who did a great job to make the time a record one.
"I was targeting a better time, but that’s now for another day. I feel I can go even quicker at a distance relatively new to me.
"For the foreseeable future, though, my mind is on my wife, and our new arrival will signal a new chapter in our lives that promise even greater rewards."
Mokoka was a keen footballer in his teen years and never thought about a career in running. That all changed when at school he was encouraged to try his hand at cross country.
Not long after that he became a national champion.
Under the watchful eye of his coach, Michael Seme, he would go on to dominate the local track scene and become SA champion over a range of distances — from 1,500 to 10,000m — while at the same time shining on the international stage.
What is the next port of call for the Pretoria-based athlete who hails from Mahikeng in the North West?
"My coach will decide on the road ahead," said Mokoka. "It takes me four months to prepare for a marathon, so my next event will be for 2019.
"Obviously the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is a big deal. I want to be part of the marathon team and will be aiming to medal, which wasn’t the case at the 2012 Games in London, where I had to settle for 49th place. I feel my best days are ahead of me. Key to it all is to stay healthy and injury-free."
Namibia’s reigning Commonwealth Games champion Helalia Johannes made it a double success for the Southern African contingent in the Cape Town Marathon by winning the women’s race in a record 2:29:28, 52sec better than the previous best set by Kenyan Isabella Ochichi in 2015. She cashed in just like Mokoka.
SA could be in the running to host platinum level races as the IAAF considers its race schedule for 2019. If that comes about, there will be definite opportunities for SA’s best to enhance their credentials — especially the men’s brigade, who have come on in leaps and bounds.