Johannesburg - The cream of South Africa’s athletes will be in action at the Diamond League Meeting in Zurich on Thursday.
According to the supersport.com website, Wayde van Niekerk (400 metres world champion), Sunette Viljoen (bronze medallist in the javelin at the World Championships) and Wenda Nel (400-hurdles finalist at the World Championships) could be forgiven for wondering: “Have we not done this before?” Their respective events will be almost exact repeats of their World Championships finals in Beijing.
Van Niekerk, who set the world alight with his winning time of 43.48 seconds in the World Championships finals, will be challenged by LaShawn Merritt (US), who was second in 43.65s and Kirani James (Grenada), who was third in 43.78s.
The Beijing final was certainly one of the fastest 400 metres races in athletics history. The South African’s time put him 4th on the IAAF All Time List, Merritt’s time ranks 6th and James’s time 8th.
But they won’t be the only fast men who will contest the 400 metres on Thursday. Isaac Makwala (Botswana), who ran a time of 43.72s earlier this season (putting him 7th on the All Time List) will also compete. The Botswana athlete was 5th in the final. This means that four of the fastest 400 metres athletes ever will be competing against each other for victory.
Luguelin Santos (Dominican Republic), who finished 4th in the final, and Rabah Yousif (Britain), who was 6th, will also be there to make matters just that little bit more interesting.
In the javelin throw for women South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen will get an opportunity to revenge herself on Kathrina Molitor. The German clinched the gold medal on Sunday by throwing 67.69 metres with her last throw. This meant that Viljoen, who was second going into the last round, had to settle for the bronze medal.
The current Olympic Champion and world record holder, Barbora Spotakova (Czech Republic), will certainly have something to prove after finishing only 9th in Sunday’s final. Christina Obergfoll and Linda Stahl (both Germany), Debra Winger (US) and Elizabeth Gleadle (Canada) are the other finalists who will be in action.
Of South Africa’s three medallists at the World Championships, Anaso Jobodwana (bronze medallist) will seemingly have the easiest task because neither Usain Bolt (Jamaica), the winner of the 200 metres, nor Justlin Gatlin (US), the silver medallist, will be racing. However, Jobodwana will still have his work cut out. Alonso Edward (Panama), who came 4th at the World Championships in exactly the same time as the South African (19.87s) will be racing. Jobodwana will also have to watch out for the Jamaican, Rasheed Dwyer, who season’s best is 19.80s.
Wenda Nel will be up against six of the eight finalists in the 400-hurdles for women on Thursday. The double world champion, Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic), will undoubtably be hard to beat. Cassandra Tate (US), who was 3rd in Beijing, Sara Petersen (Denmark) 4th, Janieve Russell (Jamaica) 5th, Eilidh Child (Britain) 6th and Karliese Spencer (Jamaica) 8th will all be there. Nel was 7th in the final.
The Tuks/HPC athlete says she is looking forward to resuming her duel with the world’s best hurdlers.
“My performance at the World Championships in Beijing was a big confidence booster. It proved to me that I am on track to being able to perform well at next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing. I would obviously have loved to have done better in the Worlds final, but I have to be realistic. Even if I had equalled my best time of 54.37 seconds I would still not have won a medal.
However, it is reassuring that I was able to run times faster than 55 seconds in all three my races (heats, semi-final and final). As far as Zurich is concerned, I am looking forward to racing again. I will certainly not start out as fast as I did in Beijing. Going over the last hurdle I could feel my legs tiring which prevented me from putting in the same fight as I did in my semi-final race,” the Tuks/HPC athlete said.
Khotso Mokoena (finalist in the triple jump) will be competing in the long jump in Zurich.