Young athletes praised
Johan Cronje (Getty Images)
Johannesburg - While she admits the experienced members of the squad largely underperformed, team manager Magda Botha says she was satisfied with South Africa's turnout at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
The team returned home on Tuesday with only one medal after Johan Cronje sprang a surprise to bag bronze in the men's 1500 metres event.
"It was a learning curve and the younger athletes were motivated by being over there," Botha said.
"Now they really know they can do it in future."
Botha said more than 60 percent of the team had never previously competed at the global championships, and team management was delighted with some of the rising talent on show.
Anaso Jobodwana, 21, was sixth in the men's 200m final, showing tremendous consistency throughout the championships, while 24-year-old Victor Hogan finished a surprise fifth in the men's discus throw.
Willem Coertzen again showed his versatility by taking ninth place in the gruelling decathlon event, breaking his own SA record -- the only national mark that was bettered at the championships.
There were a few stars, however, who failed to shine.
One-lap hurdler LJ van Zyl, a bronze medallist in Daegu two years ago, was eliminated in the first round, while javelin thrower Sunettte Viljoen and long jumper Khotso Mokoena, two of the country's best performers in recent years, were sixth and seventh in their respective finals.
"We were disappointed with a few athletes because we expected more from them," Botha said.
"But we're happy with the overall performance."
Cronje, who stunned the field in the finishing straight to snatch bronze, just centimetres behind American silver medallist Matthew Centrowitz, said the team environment showed no signs of the problems facing national governing body Athletics South Africa or its embattled administrators.
"The vibe over there was very positive," Cronje said.
"We were hoping for a few medals, and people like Khotso and Sunette were big medal favourites.
"They came close, and it's a pity they weren't in the top three, but all in all I think it went pretty well."