Led by Akani Simbine, sprinters were the star performers on Friday, setting an explosive start on the first of two days of competition at the ASA Athletics Championships in Potchefstroom.
Brushing off the cool conditions in the evening, Olympic finalist Akani Simbine outclassed a quality line-up to reclaim the SA 100-metre title he won in Stellenbosch two years ago.
Simbine crossed the line in 9.95 seconds, with Olympic 400m champion and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk dropping down in distance to take the silver medal in 10.04. Rising star Thando Roto earned bronze, also clocking 10.04.
‘I’m pretty happy with the time, but I came here to get back the title I lost last year, so I’m very happy to reclaim my title,’ said Simbine who clocked 9.94 in the semis.
In the women’s 100m final pre-race favourite Carina Horn, who narrowly missed the SA record (11.06) when she clocked 11.10 in the semi-finals, pulled out of the women’s 100m final due to illness.
In her absence, defending champion Alyssa Conley stormed to victory in 11.41, edging Tebogo Mamatu into second position by 0.03.
In other events, Le Roux Hamman won a tightly contested men’s 400m hurdles final in 49.35, ahead of former title holder LJ van Zyl (49.52) and Constant Pretorius (49.83) with Gauteng North sweeping the podium.
Wenda Nel, the defending champion, won the women’s one-lap race over the barriers by more than three seconds, securing gold in 55.16.
In the women’s 5 000m contest, national cross-country champion Kesa Molotsane delivered a frightening kick over the last lap, winning the race in 16min 22.30sec after a hard-fought battle against Irvette van Zyl, who took second, and Nolene Conrad, who ended third.
Thabang Mosiako also had a strong final lap to earn the men’s 5000m crown in 14:03.84 in a notable upset of the opening day, outsprinting Olympic Games finalist Elroy Gelant ,who took silver in a strong field which included bronze medallist and former Olympian Stephen Mokoka.
Among the field events, specialists Sunette Viljoen shone with a 63.49m heave to win her 12th SA title in the women’s javelin.
‘I’m in a good space, throwing well and training well,’ said Viljoen, who has set herself a target of her third World Championships medal in London later this year. ‘I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.’
Phil-Mar Janse van Rensburg earned a hard-fought victory in the men’s javelin to secure his national title. He secured gold with a 79.86m heave, launching the implement just 12 centimetres further than silver medallist Rocco van Rooyen.
Athletics South Africa was over moon over the opening day of the Championship. ‘Today it was proof that South Africa is back,’ said Aleck Skhosana, the President of ASA. ‘This is the quality that this nation has missed over the years. We have clearly moved from the times of squabbling amongst each other.
‘The athletes are performing, coaches are coaching and administration are administrating just as it should be. That is what this administration has committed itself to when we took over and we thank the athletes and coaches for a great work done.
‘We watched a great sprint and we congratulate Simbine, Van Niekerk, Roto, Conley and all other winners for their achievements. On Saturday the world joins again to watch another tantalising clash-in-the-waiting in the men’s 200m where Wayde will be looking for his qualifier for the World Champs. Good luck to all athletes. We are proud of you.’
Athletics SA has now confirmed as correct the entrant of SA-born athlete Karin Mey, who earned bronze for Turkey at the 2009 World Championships. While she will compete as an individual for Gauteng North, as a dual citizen, she now qualifies to earn a medal in the women’s long jump event on Saturday.
Picture of Simbine and Van Niekerk celebrating courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA
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