South African Athletics

High hopes for SA world champs team

2015-08-21 21:16
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - Judging by the 12 new national track and field records and general high standard of performances in the build-up, the South African team should return from the IAAF World Championships in Beijing with one of its biggest medal hauls yet.

The championships will start on Saturday with South Africa's men's marathon runners and 800m athlete Rynardt van Rensburg kick-starting the country's campaign.

At the previous edition in 2013, middle distance ace Johan Cronje won the country’s only medal - a bronze - with his third-place finish in the men’s 1 500m while seven athletes made it into finals in their respective events.

Five athletes in this year's squad should have a realistic shot at a podium finish as they rank among the top-eight in the world in their respective events.

The team includes five former world championships medallists in Sunette Viljoen (javelin), Caster Semenya (800m), LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles), Khotso Mokoena (long jump) and Cronje.

Based purely on ranking, Viljoen leads the charge as she boasts the world-leading distance with her 66.62m throw in March.

However, the event should be one of the closest in years with 19 athletes within three metres of each other.

Viljoen, the African record-holder and 2011 world bronze medallist will have to contend with Kimberley Mickle (Australia), Kara Winger (United States) and Kathrina Molitor (Germany), who have all thrown the javelin further than 66 metres.

Add Olympic champion and world record-holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic into the equation with a season’s best of 65.66m and there'll be a dog-fight for places.

Another of South Africa’s real medal hopes should come from sprinting sensation Wayde van Niekerk, who became the first African to break through the 44-second barrier in the 400m.

The one-lap sprinter boasts with the third fastest time this year with his 43.96 seconds and although Botswana’s Isaac Makwala (43.72) and defending champion Kirani James (43.95) of Grenada have faster times this season, Van Niekerk has beaten both of them in 2015.

London Olympics decathlete Willem Coertzen's latest South African record of 8 398 points in the combined events is the sixth best in the world this season while long jumpers Zarck Visser (8.41m) and Ruswahl Samaai (8.38m) are ranked second and fourth respectively.

Olympic long jump silver medallist Mokoena has demonstrated he had the temperament for the big stage and while he is not among the top-ranked jumpers in both the long jump and triple jump, he could rise to the occasion.

Semenya left it late to qualify for the biennial showpiece with a season’s best time of 2:00.72 a few weeks ago, but like Mokoena she could spring a surprise.

Her 2009 world gold and 2011 silver medals are enough proof she has the star quality and ability to perform when it matters most.

London Olympic finalist Anaso Jobodwana has consistently made it into 200m finals at major international meets since the Games in 2012.

He followed up his eighth place in the Olympics final with a sixth place at the previous championships in Moscow in 2013.

Jobodwana will have taken some confidence from his personal best time of 20.04 seconds in May which was a new South African time before Van Niekerk produced a sub-20 second effort.

Joint-national record holders in the men’s 100m, Henricho Bruintjies and Akani Simbine, will be running in the short sprint, while the former will also take part in the 200m.

Read more on:    athletics

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