EAST LONDON July 28 Sapa
CONTROVERSY MARS WASHIE 100
The 36th running of the annual Washie 100 ultramarathon on Saturday was marred by controversy when the leading runner, Johan van der Merwe of Polokwane, was misdireced by the leading traffic car and as a result he failed officially to break a 30-year-old record.
The race is run through the night over 160km from Port Alfred to host club Buffaloes in East London.
Van der Merwe had earlier in the week stated that he was going to break the record and he stormed away from the start in Port Alfred and passed through the halfway mark in six hours 11 seconds, well on target to break the record.
Manie Saayman set up the record time of 13:13:38 in 1982 but Van der Merwe was adamant that with the training he had done, he could surpass that time.
However, within sight of the finishing post at the Buffalo Club here, he was taken approximately 1.7km off the track by the traffic car before his seconds were able to chase after him and get the traffic officers to turn around and head in the right direction.
As a result of the debacle, Van der Merwe broke the tape in 13:15:25, some two minutes off Saayman's record.
There is no doubt that had the traffic car taken the correct route, Van der Merwe would have had the new record in his pocket.
The athlete and his seconds immediately lodged an appeal and a decision will be made by the Buffaloes Running Club committee later Saturday whether to reduce the official time and award Van der Merwe with a new record time.