South African Athletics

Opening-day glory for South Africa

2016-06-23 07:13
Jaco Engelbrecht (Getty)

Durban - Host nation South Africa won two of the three titles on offer on the opening day of the Africa Athletics Championships in Durban on Wednesday.

African women's hammer throw record-holder Amy Sene of Senegal won her third continental title with a best of 68.35 metres to beat defending champion Laetitia Bambara of Burkina Faso.

Bambara threw 68.12m for second place while Tunisian Sarah Bensaad won the bronze medal with a throw of 62.53m.

South African distance runner Stephen Mokoka picked up his maiden African title in the men's 10 000m, winning a sprint finish against Kenyan Victor Kimitei.

"The sprint caught me off guard, but I am happy that I worked on that and managed to win," Mokoka said.

"Normally, when I run a race I finish the last kilometre in around 2:40 to 2:45 and today I went 2:35 so I am very happy with that because there is a huge improvement in my kick."

For the majority of the 25-lap race the lead group of about 10 athletes stuck together until Mokoka and Kimitei broke away.

Mokoka won the sprint finish by the narrowest of margins, clocking 28:02.97 with Kimitei second in 28:03.18 and Namakwe Nkhasi of Lesotho third in 28:06.33.

"This is my first medal at the African champs - it is very important for my career as I beat Kenyans and Ethiopians in the race," Mokoka said.

"Going into the home straight I was just pumping and trying to pull the rope because when you go into the sprint you use your arms higher."

South African Jaco Engelbrecht won the men's shot put title with his final attempt of 20m relegating Franck Owaka of Congo Brazzaville to second with 19.89m while Nigerian Stephen Mozia took the bronze medal with 19.84m.

"I've beaten Franck consistently, but over the last two years I haven't been able to do it so it is great to get that monkey off my back," Engelbrecht said.

"This is my first African title and I've dubbed myself 'mister silver' because at South African championships it was silver, at the African Games I won bronze, and a silver at African champs.

"I had to show some serious big-match temperament. It is a season's best and it is nice to hit that distance."

The stars from African athletics powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia skipped the championships to prepare for national trials ahead of the Rio Olympic Games in August.

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