Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games suffered a blow yesterday when long distance runner, Alphonce Felix Simbu admitted that he may not feature for the national athletics team again.
The 2017 Mumbai Marathon gold medalist has opted to pull out of the games scheduled for April 4 to 15 in Gold Coast, Australia to focus on his build-up to next year’s London Marathon. “Running was a hobby when I was younger but it has become a job and I love it,” the 25-year-old athlete said.
His ‘tough decision’ was hardly a surprise, given many world class long distance athletes now want to compete in money-spinning championships. As the countdown to the 2018 London Marathon continues, elite runners from around the world are fine-tuning for the race, which will take place on April 22, ten days after the Commonwealth Games.
But the decision by the athlete, who is among runners Tanzanians bank on for medals in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, left Athletics Tanzania (AT) officials and some fans disappointed.
Simbu, who claimed bronze at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in the United Kingdom a few months ago, has asked the AT not to include his name in the national team for the Club Games.
According to him, Tanzania is endowed with abundant gifted runners who only need grooming and exposure to win medals in major international competitions, including the Commonwealth, Olympic Games. “All I ever wanted to do as an athlete is feature for the national team. I remember when I earned a call-up to the national squad for the first time, I got interviewed and asked what I wanted to do. I said I want to run for the national team,” he recalled.
“Now it’s finally done, I won’t be competing for the team at the Commonwealth Games next year. It feels a bit sad,” he said.
“I finished fifth at this year’s London Marathon after clocking 02:09:10. My target is to win a gold medal in the race next year,” he said.
He said his decision to skip the Gold Coast Games stems from the fact that he needs ample time to prepare ahead of the London Marathon, where hefty prizes will be up for grabs. Winners in the men’s and women’s elites will each take home $55,000 (about Sh124 million), and runners-up will each receive $30,000 while third-placed get $22,500.
The London Marathon organisers have also set aside $15,000 for the fourth-placed.
Some $100,000 will be awarded to any runner in the men’s race who runs a sub-2:05:00 time, and 2:18:00 in the women’s race.
Another $25,000 will be awarded to any runner who wins the race in a course record time (2:03:05 for men, 2:17:42 for women).
AT secretary general Wilhelm Gidabuday said they were working on Simbu’s request to be excluded in Team Tanzania for the games.