Obituary – Zithulele Sinqe  (9 June 1963 – 22 December 2011) South African athletics lost one of its most respected and talented athletes on Thursday when Zithulele Sinqe died in a car accident near Balfour

The 48-year-old Springbok roadrunner excelled in all disciplines of the sport, and earned double victory in the Two Oceans in 1996 and 1997.

It was his 2:08:04 marathon time in Port Elizabeth on 3 May 1986 that made the world stand up and take notice.

Having trailed Willie Mtolo for much of the race, he made a charge over the final kilometres to take the SA Championship title 11 seconds ahead of Mtolo and placing him the fifth fastest marathon in the world.  Just fourteen months later Sinqe shared a time of 60 minutes 11 seconds with Matthews Temane in the SA Half Marathon championships in East London. Although Temane was adjudged to have the slight edge, the pair would have been lauded for what was a world record time had it not been for an administrative decision to finish the 3 lap race on the downhill drive into a surf club. That move saw the drop on the course being 7 metres more than accepted for records, but the level of his performance was such that it took a decade before Kenyan Shem Kororia ran his 59:56 in Kosice.

Although regarded as a marathoner, Sinqe’s 28:30 for 10km in Cape Town in 1986 was the fifth fastest ever by a South African and he was awarded colours for Cross Country.

At the other end of the spectrum Sinqe won the Two Oceans Marathon (56km) in 1996 and 1997 and then in 2000 made his debut to Comrades where he finished fourth behind Russia’s Vladimir Kotov amongst one of the strongest international fields assembled for the millennium race.

It was in the PE marathon that Willie Mtolo and Sinqe solidified a lasting friendship. “I was really shocked to hear of his death,” said Mtolo on Friday.

“I spoke with him on the phone on Wednesday he was in great form. Two weeks ago we were running together as part of the Sporting Heroes aids campaign. We ran in Johannesburg, Vryheid, Mtubamtuba and Underberg, we agreed that in 2013 or 2014 we would run Comrades together at the back just to enjoy the race again.”

Sporting isolation resulted in Sinqe failing to receive the recognition, and the financial rewards, that his performances deserved.

Mtolo and Sinqe spent much of their time running for the same clubs commencing with Mr Price, then Harmony where Sinqe commenced a formal development programme and coaching.

Sinqe’s passion for the sport was immediately obvious and came to the fore whether he was talking socially, coaching, delivering a talk, or commentating for SABC.  His knowledge and empathy for the athlete was a cornerstone of his interviews.

“Sinqe was a member of the CGA commission, so this is a big loss to the province and to the sport of athletics,”Mandla Radebe, the general manager of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA).

“ Zet always had a smile on his face, and was able to chuckle about himself,” said Bruce Fordyce who worked with him as part of the Nedbank club. “He is one of the few runners who excelled but after retiring put back into the sport. He was always concerned about others. Always willing to advise, coach and support.”

Nic Bester, the Nedbank team manager, echoed Fordyce’s comment. “Ever since the Harmony club days in 2000, Zet put the development side to the fore.

He was special: He didn’t talk development, he made it happen and got involved on the ground.”

It was during his travels to Balfour where he was working on sporting development at a local mine that he was killed when he swerved to avoid other out of control vehicles.

He leaves behind his wife, Phindle, son Siyabulena and daughter Zintle.

Zithulele (Zet) Sinqe will be sorely missed by all who knew him and sport in South Africa.

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