The exciting feature about ultramarathons is that there are so many variables, anything can happen. Here we look at some of the favourites to win the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018.
For the MEN:
At the top we are expecting a battle of the firemen – Hong Kong vs. Spain.
Juan Vicente Garcia Beneito comes into the race as the favourite having won every 4 Deserts Race in 2012 and he still retains some course records – however 2012 is already six years ago and the course in Namibia is new to Garcia Beneito.
Sponsored athlete Wong Ho Chung from Hong Kong is a regular on the podium in the competitive local and regional trail running scene. He also finished 10th in the Marathon des Sables in 2017 and represented Hong Kong in the World Champion Trail Running competition in Hawaii earlier this year. Wong Ho Chung, at the age of 31, also is 10 years younger than Garcia Beneito. However Chung has set himself the goal of the 4 Deserts Grand Slam in 2018 so he has more at stake than just this one race, although he will be giving it his all as he is used to racing back-to-back and has nearly four months until the next race in the 4 Deserts Race Series, the Gobi March (Mongolia).
Ben Dame from Germany comes into the Sahara Race (Namibia) with a 2nd place finish at the Gobi March (China) 2017, missing out on 1st place by less than one minute, and a 3rd place finish at the Atacama Crossing 2016. Dame will be looking for a strong finish at the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018 to put him in contention to become the 4 Deserts Champion 2018 when he joins The Last Desert (Antarctica) in November.
Takuya Wakaoka from Japan has put it out there that he will complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam in 2018 and will be also be pushing at a chance to be crowned the 4 Deserts Champion 2018. Wakaoka made his first appearance on the ultrarunning scene at the Atacama Crossing in 2015 where he finished in a respectable 27th place. However at the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2016 he surprised everyone by finishing in 4th place and has had some other strong finishes since that time. He knows the course and knows what he is capable of accomplishing.
There are also plenty of others who could be pushing hard for a strong finish including Bart Van Schilt, Sam Itah, Matthew Burke, Roberto Rivola, Jim Steele and no doubt some strong unknowns.
For the WOMEN
The favourite for the women is Sandy Suckling at 57 years old! Don’t be fooled by her age, Sandy is living proof that age means nothing in ultrarunning – she has the experience, determination and the track record to win this race. Suckling joined the 4 Deserts Club in 2012 and returned in 2014 to win the Sahara Race (Jordan). She has also won a number of other ultramarathons in the last four years and we are expecting a strong performance from Sandy in the Namib Desert.
At the opposite end of the age and experience scale is Jacqui Bell, also from Australia. Jacqui is joining her first stage race and is only 23 years old. It must also be noted that Bell’s main goal is to become the youngest female to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam rather than to win in Namibia. However, the personal trainer from the Sunshine Coast has been clocking up some impressive training which implies a good result.
Isabelle Sauve from Canada came to the Atacama Crossing 2016 as an unknown and finished as the 3rd female only just behind the 2nd place female – and 15th overall. She was a late entry into the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018 with the primary goal to qualify for The Last Desert (Antarctica). We are expecting another strong finish and podium place from Isabelle.
Among the women there will no doubt be some surprise performances from unknowns and past competitors alike.
Follow the race as it happens starting on Saturday, 28 April when competitors will be taken into the middle of the Namib Desert.
The website will be updated with