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Comrades gold medalist, Mr Nkosikhona “Pitbull” Mhlakwana.

From crawling to the Comrades Marathon finish line in 2019 to finishing sixth in this year’s race, UKZN graduate Nkosikhona “Pitbull” Mhlakwana has travelled a long and winding road in the last three years…and he couldn’t be happier!

‘This time around it was a different finish and a different feeling for me. I am so proud of myself for this achievement and I’m recovering well and feeling strong,’ said Mhlakwana.

Completing the 89km race in an impressive time of 5 hours 43 minutes, he said it was his first attempt at the down run. ‘It was tough running the Comrades after a two-year break because of COVID-19, but as athletes we are happy the race is back and I personally look forward to seeing an improvement in my running time next year.’

The 29-year-old athlete acknowledged how being able to see his family on the route at every cut-off station had meant everything to him. With the anguish they all experienced in 2019, he was happy to see them excited for this year’s finish.

Sharing his plans, Mhlakwana said: ‘For now it’s all about enjoying the moment and celebrating my accomplishment. I did all the hard work of going to the camps and training, so I deserve to take it all in.’

Mhlakwana thanked his support system: sponsors Hollywoodbets Athletics Club, Adidas, Orange Groove and 32Gi, and his team – physiotherapist, Ms Shamim Khan; physical trainer, Mr Craig George; coach, Mr Prodigal Khumalo; and manager, Mr Ross Walters – for always believing in him.

He also extended his thanks to his fans for their supportive messages as well as their unwavering faith in him.

UKZN Manager for Student Health and Sport Mr Mark Bashe applauded Mhlakwana on his performance. ‘As the Sports Division we congratulate Nkosikhona – an alumnus of UKZN and former member of the Athletics Club – and are happy that he has achieved such a great success in the Comrades Marathon.

‘We look forward to him returning to the University in the capacity of a coach and unearthing talent here.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied