Cape Town - South Africa’s Wenda Nel and Wayde van Niekerk waltzed into the final of the 400m hurdles and flat 400m events respectively at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China on Monday morning.
According to the SASCOC website, going into the first of three semi-finals as second quickest qualifier, Nel again finished second to American Cassandra Tate, the athlete who beat her in the heats.
A solid start saw her never out of the top three and she eased into the automatic top two qualifying sport as she overtook Commonwealth silver medallist Eilidh Childs of Scotland as they cleared the final hurdle. Her time was 54.63 as Tate won the heat in 54.33.
Fastest through to Thursday’s final was world champion Zuzana Hejnova, the Czech athlete running 54.24.
Van Niekerk, SA’s form track runner of the year with national marks over 200, 300 and 400m, was fastest on paper in the third and final one-lap semi-final.
He was also fastest on the track and cruised home in 44.31sec from American LaShawn Merritt (44.34). The Bloemfonteiner was always in control, easing into the lead off the last bend, opening up a small gap and then relaxing over the final 15m or so for an impressive win.
Fastest into the final was fellow African and continental record holder Isaac Makwala with 44.11 from Grenada’s Kirani James (44.16) while Dominican Republic’s Lueguelín Santos ran a national record of 44.26 to end third quickest ahead of Van Niekerk. The final on Wednesday should be one to be savoured.
A spot in the final was not to be for sprinter Carina Horn as she dropped out in the 100m semi-finals.
Running the final of three heats she looked slightly slow out of the blocks and had to play catch-up from then on in. And over 100m only a precious few (read Usain Bolt!) are able to make up that sort of ground over 100m.
She came back to finish strongly but in sixth spot in 11.15 which was 0.09sec outside her personal best.
Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce of Jamaica was predictably quickest into the final with a 10.82 from Netherlands' Dafne Schippers with a national record 10.83. Slowest into the final was Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye with a 10.97.
Horn will now head back to Austria and build on this and reflect on the big strides she’s made in the last year or so, equalling Evette de Klerk's 25-year-old national mark of 11.06 earlier this year.
The field events saw more disappointment in the SA camp after all three long jumpers failed to make the final in the morning. Rocco van Rooyen was in Group A of the javelin qualifying. Needing an 83m throw to automatically go through, he opened with a 70.47 and ended with a 75.55.
Coming after his 85.39 best in Cape Town earlier this season, the youngster no doubt has what it takes to be up with the big boys but needs to go back to the drawing board and see what has vanished from his armoury!