When Caroline Wöstmann won the Two Oceans ultra-race on Saturday, with Tanith Maxwell finishing third and Charné Bosman fifth, a new era was ushered in. Lindsey Parry predicts that this could be the beginning of the revival of South African athletics. Parry, a sports scientist and coach at the High Performance Centre (HPC), was instrumental in ending the domination of international female athletes in the Two Oceans. Wöstmann is the first South African athlete in 14 years to win this ultra-race.
It is hard to remember when last three female South African athletes were able to finish in the top five of the Two Oceans.
Parry is the common denominator in this breakthrough because he coaches two of the athletes, namely Wöstmann and Bosman. He ascribes the success of Maxwell and Bosman to the fact that they both have ‘serious marathon pedigrees’: ‘Charné and Tanith began their careers in ultra-racing while they were still close to their best as marathon athletes. In the past our best female ultra-athletes were not such good marathon runners. They therefore switched to the longer distances to be competitive while still competing against international athletes who ran competitive times in the marathons as well. Caroline is a late developer. She is a bit like Bob De La Motte (a former Comrades gold medallist) who started running at a late stage and then realized that he could be competitive. Caroline has had two years of extremely consistent training and we are now beginning to reap the benefits. In the beginning of last year her best marathon time was just over three hours but by the end of the year she had improved to a time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. I think the results achieved by our athletes in the women’s Two Oceans ultra-race can be attributed to the work done by Elana Meyer’s Edurocad, as well as to the work we are doing at the HPC. I am confident that there is a general revival in athletics and road running in South Africa. Actually we are seeing the results somewhat quicker than I thought we would. During the next five years we will see some major improvements in middle distance, long distance, and even in the sprints, for men as well as women.’
Parry is reluctant as coach to take credit for the feats of Wöstmann, Maxwell and Bosman. Parry says: ‘I think I was fortunate to grow up in a house with a father who was a runner. I have been unning since I was five years old and started coaching when I was 19. I have experimented on myself and on friends over the years and through my studies I have learned how the human body works.’ His own best time in the Two Oceans is 3 hours 58 minutes and in the Comrades it is 7 hours 11 minutes. Parry says: ‘In the past I have made many mistakes. It was only during the past three years that I began to get things more right than wrong. I see the Two Oceans results as a combination of finding the right athletes at the right time. We have a good partnership. One thing I have learned from coaching is that when you are standing on the top of a mountain it is very easy to fall back to the bottom. So we need to stay grounded and not get ahead of ourselves. We should also make sure that we keep on learning all the time.’