He took up long distance running at the age of 36 , then learnt to swim and ride a bike , both from scratch , at 44 , and now inspirational Gqeberha petrol pump attendant and triathlete Kura Mazongo has finished his third full IRONMAN , in spite of all the odds being heavily stacked against him . – BY SIYA NDZIMANDE with SEAN FALCONER
Going into the ISUZU IRONMAN African Championship in Gqeberha on 5 March , one man who felt confident that he was readier than ever to tackle the 3.8km swim was Kura Mazongo . The 47-year-old petrol pump attendant from Gqeberha , who has inspired many by overcoming financial barriers and lack of sporting resources to achieve his dream of finishing an IRONMAN , was actually lining up for his third full IRONMAN , but he had not yet swum the full distance in the race . went into the 2023 edition of the race hopeful that he would get to do the full distance , and thus finally be able to call himself an IRONMAN . Unfortunately , the swim was once again shortened to 700m , this time due to lightning and a predicted storm , and while Kura was happy to finish without any problems in 12:14:57 , he was also understandably disappointed .
“ I was a lot more prepared for this race , compared to the last two IRONMAN events , particularly for the swim , because it was something I had worked on leading up to the race . It was a pity the swim had to be shortened , because I was more than ready to take on the 3.8km distance ,” says Kura . “ The bike went
Inspirational petrol pump attendant and IRONMAN triathlete Kura Mazongo .
a lot more smoothly than I anticipated . The first lap was easy , but the second lap was a bit tougher with the headwind picking up . It became a mental game on that second leg , but I had done the work during training , and had experience of riding 180km on the course already . I also was conscious of pushing too hard on the bike , so I felt like I went a lot slower than last year , to ensure I had better running legs to get me to the end . And of course , the run leg is my favourite , where I feel most comfortable .”
Getting a Running Start
Zimbabwean born Kura moved to South Africa in 2007 and has resided in Nelson Mandela Bay ever
In his first race in 2021 , the swim was shortened for age groupers due to the rough sea conditions . In fact , that edition of the race was described by many as one of the toughest yet , as athletes also had to contend with strong winds on the bike and run legs , but Kura finished in 14:01:44 , then caught a lift home with a fellow athlete , arriving home after 10pm , and still got up early the Monday morning to make it to work by 6am . “ I was so tired , but I was excited to show my colleagues , employers and customers my IRONMAN finisher ’ s medal ,” he says . “ This was not to show off , I was just very proud to have reached my dream , and I wanted to show everyone that supported me that I did it .”
Then in 2022 , the swim leg was cancelled outright due to rough seas , so Kura did the 180km bike and 42.2km run legs and finished in 11:12:46 . He therefore
Kura comes home for a third IRONMAN medal in 2023 .
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