Stellenbosch - South Africa’s athletes dished up some quality performances at the SA Senior Championships in Stellenbosch at the weekend, despite the sport’s ongoing boardroom battles.
While Athletics South Africa was being placed under administration for the second time in four years, the national championships took on a strong youthful theme as the next generation of athletes dominated proceedings in the absence of stalwarts in their respective events.
By the end of the two-day championships, which concluded on Saturday, long jumpers Lynique Prinsloo and Zarck Visser, and 400m hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and PC Beneke, recorded A-qualifying standards for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.
World javelin throw bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen and women’s 400m hurdler Annerie Ebersohn also put one foot in the team for the global championships by setting B-qualifying standards.
Prinsloo's winning jump of 6.81 metres was arguably the performance of the weekend as she improved her personal best by more than 20 centimetres to book her place in the team for Moscow.
Her effort was the third best distance by a South African, while Visser also moved up the all-time list with his 8.29m - the second best leap by a South African.
Simon Magakwe strengthened his grip on the short sprints as the South African 100m record holder won his specialist event for the fifth consecutive time and successfully defended his 200m title.
The women's 400m hurdles saw the crowning of a new champion, with Annerie Ebersohn breaking Wenda Nel’s stranglehold on the event. Nel stumbled at the last hurdle but picked herself up to finish second.
“It was very close and I am very lucky she fell, but we are training partners and we are very close,” Ebersohn said.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her to really push me in every training session.”
In the men's one-lap hurdles final, Fredericks confirmed his class by winning the SA title for the third time in 48.78 seconds, with training partner Beneke taking second place in 49.18. National record holder LJ van Zyl skipped his specialist event to focus on the men's 200m, where he reached the semi-finals.
Beneke made a nuisance of himself, keeping Fredericks at an arm’s length, and their tussle demonstrated that the one-lap hurdles could see some exciting racing with the prospect of Van Zyl also in the mix.
"It makes the competition better and hopefully we can in the future experience the years where LJ van Zyl, Llewelyn Herbert, Ter de Villiers and Ockert Cilliers competed against each other," Fredericks said.
The women’s 800m saw 17-year-old Gena Lofstrand lead from gun to tape to win in two minutes, 4.60 seconds (2:04.60) in a race featuring some of the country’s top youngsters.
Lofstrand said her tactics might have been different had Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya, who was still in pre-season training, been in the field.
“I think I would have tried to hold on to her and it would have been very hard to run a better time if she was running,” Lofstrand said.
Former world high jump champion Jacques Freitag, 31, made a successful return to the sport, finishing second behind Ruan Claasen with both athletes jumping 2.10m.
The SA record holder said he had little time to prepare for the event but he vowed to back to his best within the next year.
“Silver is like first loser to me but just watch this space," Freitag said.
"I will be ok, just give me a few months to prepare and I will be one of the best in the world again."