Beijing - South Africa’s opening morning of competition at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China got off to an inauspicious start on Saturday.
The men’s marathon was the first event of the 10-day championships and just one of three South Africans finished.
That was Desmond Mokgobu in a slow 2hr 34min 11sec as Eritrean teenager Ghirmay Ghebreslassie won in 2:12:28.
Mokgubu was second to last of the 42 finishers as the punishing conditions saw 25 competitors failing to finish. Among them were Mokgobu’s team-mates Sibusiso Nzima and Benedict Moeng.
Ghebreslassie was Eritrea’s first ever World Championships gold medallist and the youngest winner of any World Championships road event.
South Africa’s first track outing was also a brutal reminder of just how tough the world stages is as Rynardt van Rensburg trailed in last in his 800-metre heat.
Going off in the fifth of six heats, the young Bloemfontein athlete had a solid start to slot in second behind Umar after the first 200m.
The halfway belll tolled in an honest 52.62 seconds and it was down the back straight that Van Rensburg dropped back to fifth spot as the business end of the race approached.
Coming into the final straight he was unable to find that extra gear as the gap grew and he ended up bringing up the rear of the field in 1min 48.61, more than three seconds off his personal best of 1:45.40 set in Slovenia last month.
First three in each heat and the next six best times advanced through to the next round and Van Rensburg ended as 33rd of 44 heat finishers.
Meanwhile Olympic and world champion David Rudisha gave nothing away as he won the sixth and final heat in the slowest time of all the heats a positively pedestrian 1:48.51 in his books.
Fastest heat went to another Kenyan Ferguson Rotich in 1:45.83. Botswana’s SA based Nijel Amos qualified comfortably enough in 1:47.23 as did world leader Amel Tuka of Bosnia in 1:46.12.
South African fans will be hoping things look up in the evening action as sprinters Henricho Bruintjies and Akani Simbine line up for the 100m heats, LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks are in 400m hurdles action and Stephen Mokoka runs the 10 000m final.