The South African running community as well as the Nedbank Running Club (NRC) have not only lost one of its most talented and promising Comrades Gold medallists, but also a humble, disciplined and very kind man.
Friends, training partners and of course family members of Siphiwe Ndlela are still in shock after the untimely death of this talented 28-year-old who passed away this past weekend whilst at a training camp in the Drakensberg.
Ndlela was with 5 other athletes in the Himeville area when he started feeling unwell, said Mdu Khumalo, his coach of the last three years. Ndlela took some herbal medication, but shortly after started sweating and vomiting. Sadly paramedics could not save him, and he passed away on the scene.
Condolences have since poured in from across the running community. Nick Bester, National Manager of the Nedbank Running Club said: “Siphiwe was the most promising athlete in the Green Dream Team to become our next Comrades Champion. We were there with every step of his development and noted that he was extremely consistent, claiming Gold medals in Comrades, Two Oceans and the Soweto Marathon in the same year, two years in a row. One of his great attributes was the fact that he was always very appreciative of everything the NRC did for him”.
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) described Ndlela as a phenomenal athlete who was not only a humble and disciplined athlete but also inspired runners with his brilliant performances. CMA Chairperson, Cheryl Winn said: “We note the untimely passing of Siphiwe Ndlela with a profound sense of sadness and shock at the tragic loss of a promising young athlete and rising star. On behalf of the Comrades Marathon Association I extend our deepest condolences to all of his family, friends and loved ones.”
Hleziphi Ncayiyana, Chairperson of the NRC KZN said: “We lost a humble and respectful athlete who loved running so much and worked so hard for his achievements. He promised me that he would win Comrades this year. Rest in Peace Siphiwe Ndlela. We have learnt so much from you. You will always be in our hearts”.
His coach, Khumalo, said Ndlela was a rising start with so much potential. “He was going from strength to strength”.
Wisya Sibaya, club secretary of the NRC KZN, said: “I was looking forward to seeing his dynamite performance at this year’s Comrades Marathon, surprising many. Be at peace Champ (as we called you at the club). You will be missed dearly. Your humanity and humbleness will not be forgotten, nor your bravery in any situation you faced in life. Rest in peace. You have done us proud”.
Many others within the running community saw Ndlela as being in the best shape of his life in the last couple of months.
Ndlela has a running CV of note. Of his four Comrades finishes, he claimed Gold in both the 2016 and 2017 Comrades Marathons. He achieved 1 Wally Hayward and 1 Silver, all within the top 20 positions. His personal best was in 2016 when he finished in a time of 5:36:56.
He also finished the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in respectively 2016 and 2017. In 2016 he finished in the 10th position in a time of 3:19:55 and last year he crossed the line in another 10th position and PB of 3:17:06. He excelled at many races, notably the Zululand Ultra Marathon in 2014 (9th position) and the Chatsworth Freedom Ultra Marathon 52km finishing 3rd in a time of 3:12:08. In 2016 he crossed the Soweto Marathon finish line in a time of 2:27:10.
The Nedbank Running Club is doing everything in its power to help Ndlela’s family as well as NRC athletes who would like to attend their teammate’s funeral. Apart from financially supporting the funeral costs, NRC will also provide transport in the form of mini busses travelling from Johannesburg and Durban to the funeral in Ixopo.
A memorial service will be held in Ixopo on Sunday, 11 March 2018, starting at 9am. NRC athletes who are interested in attending the funeral can contact Pio Mpolokeng on 072 336 1616 and Hleziphi Ncayiyana on 083 526 7383.
Ndlela was not married. He leaves behind three sisters, a brother and his mom. His father passed away in September last year.
For those travelling on their own, some directions: From Ixopo continue with the Main Road for about 4km. At Sappi Zone D64 turn right onto a gravel road. From there you will see signage.