TOP Zimbabwe long distance runner Isaac Mpofu has been praised for a good outing at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Mpofu finished 16th in the men’s marathon on Sunday.
He has already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and crossed the finishing line in 2 hours 11 minutes and 33 seconds.
He was just three minutes behind race winner Victor Kiplangat of Uganda.
The 23-year-old gallantly protected his lead to win his country’s second world marathon title in 2 hours 8 minutes 53 seconds.
Another Zimbabwean, Ngonidzashe Ncube, failed to make the qualification time after finishing 37th in a time of 2:17:02.
The Olympic qualification time is 2 hours 8 minutes.
A day earlier on Saturday, Zimbabwe’s representative in the women’s marathon Fortunate Chidzivo, finished a distant 55th in 2 hours 43 minutes 28 seconds.
Mpofu became the first Zimbabwean to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in December last year.
He qualified at the 2022 Valencia Marathon where he finished a credible 12th, in a time of two hours six minutes 48 seconds.
The athletics family heaped praise on Mpofu.
Athletics coach Themba Mhlophe said:
“I was watching the race on TV and believe me Mpofu has come of age when it comes to top marathon running.
”I have watched his progress over the years and he is at his best right now.
“This was a field of world champions.
“His position at the end should not be taken likely because he was competing with world champions and he stood his ground. Now all focus should turn to his preparations for the Olympics.”
Veteran coach and administrator, Manuel Mpofu, said:
“Given he has just recovered from injury, this was a great performance. More hard work may bring us a medal at the Olympics,” said Mpofu.
Bulawayo Athletics Board chairperson, Watson Madanyika, said they were pleased with Mpofu’s showing.
“Going forward, what we need is to have resources and a training facility of our own rather than having athletes train at home.
“The road to the Olympics begins now and, hopefully, he will get the best of preparations to enable him to bring us an Olympic medal.”