SA athletes face uphill battle

2011-06-03 16:55

Johannesburg - South African Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena will be in action in his first international meeting of the year at the Diamond League meet in Eugene, Oregan on Saturday.

The long jumper's preparations for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea will start in earnest at the meeting in the United States.

Mokoena will be a strong contender as he has the season's second best distance of the field in this event.

He will line-up against Olympic Champion Irving Saladino who has had the better of the South African in the 17 times they have competed against each other.

The last time the two crossed swords were at the Olympic Games in Berlin where the Panamanian won the gold medal with Mokoena taking the silver medal.

Mokoena’s season best of 8.17m is, however, better than Saladino but Greg Rutherfield is leading the charge with a season's best of 8.18.

South Africa’s World 800m Champion Caster Semenya will participate in only her second international meeting of the season.

She will also line-up against some of the strongest contenders over the 800m discipline with the likes of 2007 World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei and Olympic gold medallist Pamela Jelimo.

Three of the athletes in the field have dipped under two minutes which include Phoebe Wright (1:59.98), Maggie Vessey (1:59.56) and Kenia Sinclair who is leading the charge with a season’s best of 1:58.41.

Semenya is yet to run the 800m under two minutes this year but her times suggests that her form is in an upward curve.

The 20-year-old ran her season’s best time of 2:00.61 at last weekend's IAAF World Challenge Dakar Grand Prix in Dakar, Senegal.

South African and African javelin record holder Sunette Viljoen now has the gremlin of qualifying for the World Championships off her back and can focus on improving her distances.

Viljoen’s coach Tertius Liebenberg said he was relieved that his athlete qualified for the championships at last week's Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Repbulic as it relieved some pressure.

"Her confidence seems to grow and we made some changes to her run-up which is working," said Liebenberg.

Liebenberg said he was encouraged with Viljoen’s progress but he had hoped that she would reach these distances earlier during the South African season.

Viljoen struggled with a toe injury for most of the season which made it difficult for her to work on her technique.

Liebenberg said Viljoen’s win over Olympic champion and World record holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic last year in Prague has given her the belief that she can compete against the best in the world.

"Last year she stamped down her authority and I believe it is just a matter of time until she heaves a big one," said Liebenberg.

Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will once again attempt to qualify for the World Championships 400m in the United States.

Pistorius needs to run a personal-best 45.25 to qualify and could only manage to clock a 46.19 at the Golden Spike meeting on Tuesday.