Cape Town - With the nation's top athletics embarking on their pre-season preparations for the 2019 campaign, Athletics South Africa (ASA) has announced three preparation squads ahead of various major international championships to be held next year.
A 47-member ASA senior preparation squad was named this week in the build-up to the 2019 IAAF World Championships to be held in Doha, Qatar between September 28 and October 6.
The squad, including 33 men and 14 women, is spearheaded by 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, who is expected to return to action from a knee injury next year after missing the entire 2018 season, and 800m world champion Caster Semenya - who won double titles at the Commonwealth Games (800m and 1 500m) and African Championships (400m and 800m) this year.
The full-strength squad also included the likes of long jump stars Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai, experienced javelin throw star Sunette Viljoen, and SA's fastest man and woman, Akani Simbine and Carina Horn respectively, who have all shown prominence in the 2018 ASA senior rankings in their respective disciplines.
ASA confirmed it had also sent its excellence manager and former Olympic 800m silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng to Doha to assess the conditions, with athletes expected to face multiple challenges at the global championships in the Qatari capital, including extreme temperatures and late competition schedules.
Sepeng will present his report on the host city at an ASA athletes' briefing in Kempton Park on November 9.
The national federation also announced 31-member ASA Junior and Youth Preparation Squads, based on the latest 2018 ASA age group rankings.
The U20 squad, consisting of 19 men and 12 women, includes the likes of high jump sensation Breyton Poole, 400m hurdlers Sokwakhana "Soks" Zazini and Zeney van der Walt, and recently crowned Youth Olympics 100m champion Luke Davids, who was the fastest youth athlete in the country this year and was set to compete in the junior division next season.
The U18 squad, featuring 16 boys and 15 girls, is led by the likes of middle-distance prospects Carmi Prinsloo and Prudence Sekgodiso, as well as Youth Olympics shot put bronze medallist Dane Roets, who are all expected to shine again in the youth age group next season after topping the 2018 national rankings in their events this year.
The progress of the athletes in the age group squads will be monitored by ASA in the build-up to various international championships next year, including the 2019 CAA African U18 and U20 Championships, provisionally scheduled to take place in the Ivory Coast between April 13-20, and the 2019 CAA Southern Region U18 and U20 Championships to be held in Boksburg between May 10-11.