Durban - The host nation’s Antonio Alkana annexed the spotlight at Saturday’s penultimate day of the African Athletics Championships in Durban.
The Rio Olympics-bound Cape Town athlete hurried to gold in the men’s 110-metre hurdles, one of two golds grabbed by South Africans on the day. The other went to ‘veteran’ javelin ace, Sunette Viljoen. But back to Alkana who looked like a man on top of his game as he floated over the hurdles to win in 13.43 seconds.
Not only did he beat defending champion Tyron Akins of Nigeria, but his time was also a Championship Record and yet another Olympic qualifier.
"My groin felt stiff and sore before the warm up, but I had to put it out of my head before I got on the track and knew if I want to win a gold for the host country I was going to have to get out the blocks and over the first few hurdles ahead of the rest," Alkana told Road to Rio 2016.
"Now I’ve got two more races in Europe on the 13th and 18th of July (not sure of venues yet) and then it’s the Olympics."
Viljoen’s winning throw of 64.08m was also another Olympic qualifier and young Jo-Ané van Dyk, barely a week after competing at the Southern Region Championships in Zambia, took silver in 56.22m. Remarkably that’s a third personal best for the Heidelberg (Western Cape) athlete after consecutive weekly personal bests in Pretoria, Lusaka and now in Durban.
Clearly this youngster is on a rich roll of form and surely it won’t be long before the 2014 Youth Olympian represents her country on the very highest stage of all. There were also more field medals for South African hammer throwers.
Veteran Chris Harmse, who boasts an incredible 21 national senior hammer titles, took silver in 67.67m with Tshepang Makhethe getting bronze with 65.54m.
Bejing Olympics long jump silver medallist, Khotso Mokoena added another major championships medal to his collection, this time in the triple jump, as he leapt to 16.77 for bronze behind Nigerian Tosin Oke, gold medallist at the 2011 All African Games in Maputo, Mozambique. Meanwhile in the 200m heats there was a strong SA presence in both the men’s and women’s races.
World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk, who skipped the one-lapper at these championships, was quickest of the three semi-finals with an impressive 20.03 while Clarence Munyai ran a 20.99.
In the women’s 200m, it was Alyssa Conley who went some way to being disqualified in the 100m heats as she won the first semi-final in 23.02, just 0.02 seconds off her personal best set in Europe recently.
Then in the third semi-final it was Justine Palframan, who hasn’t exactly had a year to remember with injury and health issues, who was the winner in 23.37. Fastest in not the final was Cote D’Ivoire’s Marie Ta Lou in 22.89.
Caster Semenya, gold medallist in the women’ 1500m with the second fastest ever time by a South African on Friday, eased into the final of her specialist event, the 800m with a 2:02.01 win in the first semi-final, the fastest time of the three semi-finals.
Then, in the women’s hurdles the SA duo of Wenda Nel and Gezelle Magerman both went through to Sunday’s final. Nel won the first semi in 55.33, yet another Olympic qualifying time while Magerman was third in the second semi, the Youth Olympic gold medallist clocking 58.50.
Irma Reynecke, who coaches both girls (in fact she coaches the bulk of the SA hurdlers), said: "They both had good semis. Wenda wanted to begin with a low 55 and then go quicker on Sunday. Gezelle had a good 58 and will want to improve that to a 57 in the final."