With just days to go before the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Supersport Park in Centurion on Saturday afternoon, it is still not clear if Grand Prix leader Irvette van Zyl will be able to run.

Irvette Van Zyl, heading the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix leader board
Irvette Van Zyl, heading the 2016 SPAR Grand Prix leader board

The Nedbank runner had to withdraw from the women’s marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month because of a foot injury. Her manager, Nick Bester, said Van Zyl was trying everything to speed up her rehabilitation, including undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“She says she wants to run on Saturday, but we are not putting any pressure on her to run. She has to be sure that she is completely fit, or she might make her injury worse,” he said.

Earlier this year, Van Zyl, who won the Grand Prix in 2010 and 2011, made it clear in Durban that she had set her sights on winning the title again, taking part in the Durban race despite hurting her knee in a bad fall earlier in the week.

She won the first three races this year in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, where she earned bonus points for a record time. She has a substantial lead on the Grand Prix ladder, with 70 points. Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Lebogang Phalula, is in second position, with 47 points, while Cornelia Joubert has 46.

A fierce battle for podium finishes can be expected on Saturday. Top contenders include Phalula and her twin sister, Diana-Lebo, Christine Kalmer, Joubert, Mapaseka Makhanya and last year’s winner, Rutendo Nyahora.

Others to look out for on Saturday afternoon are Nolene Conrad, Jenna Challenor and Zintle Xiniwe.

Around 25 000 women are expected to turn out for the race making it the world’s biggest women’s only road race.

The Pretoria race is the only one of the five SPAR Challenge races to take place in the afternoon. The weather forecast for Saturday is “sunny and comfortable.”