Mis­sion to Mar­rakech: Win more gold

Daniel Mothowagae pre­views the African Se­nior Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships

CityPress - - Sport -

The South African track and field team have Nige­ria and Kenya to beat in the 19th edi­tion of the con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­onships in Mar­rakech, Morocco, to­day.

This is based on rank­ings be­tween the three na­tions over the past four African Cham­pi­onships.

The three pro­duced a neck-and-neck fin­ish at the re­cent Com­mon­wealth Games, where South Africa fin­ished seventh, ahead of Nige­ria (eighth) and Kenya (ninth) on the medals ta­bles at the event in Glas­gow, Scot­land.

Com­pe­ti­tion at the African Cham­pi­onships is ex­pected to be fierce as the event serves as tri­als for the IAAF In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup at the same venue next month.

Team SA’s trip to Morocco was nearly over­shad­owed by a se­lec­tion con­tro­versy af­ter mid­dle-dis­tance run­ners Jo­han Cronje, An­dré Olivier and El­roy Ge­lant were left out of the pro­vi­sional team de­spite meet­ing the qual­i­fy­ing cri­te­ria.

Ath­let­ics SA pres­i­dent Aleck Skhosana said: “The three were in­cluded last week. We ex­pect good per­for­mances in Morocco, which means the spot­light will re­turn to the ath­letes and the coaches. They re­mained fo­cused de­spite the in­fight­ing among the ad­min­is­tra­tors in the past few years.”

He said the fed­er­a­tion was hop­ing for another good medal haul af­ter Glas­gow, where 13 ath­letes – in­clud­ing two paraath­letes – brought back nine medals.

Si­mon Ma­gakwe will de­fend his 100m ti­tle this af­ter­noon. This should serve as a plat­form for his re­demp­tion af­ter his dis­ap­point­ing run in Glas­gow. He has a cred­i­ble African record with five medals from the past two edi­tions.

Team SA are also de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons in the 110m hur­dles, dis­cus, ham­mer throw, shot put and 4x100m re­lay.

Skhosana said the African Cham­pi­onships and the Com­mon­wealth Games were an ideal build-up to the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships, which are set to take place in Bei­jing, China, next year.

In Morocco, South Africa’s fiercest chal­lenge in the mid­dle-dis­tance events will come from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda; while Egypt and Al­ge­ria will pose a se­ri­ous threat in the throws.

The con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­onships could also set the stage for South Africa’s sprint dou­ble (200m and 400m) cham­pion Jus­tine Pal­fra­man to size up Nige­rian su­per­star Bless­ing Ok­ag­bare in the women’s 200m dash. Ok­ag­bare won the sprint dou­ble (100m and 200m) at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

The com­pe­ti­tion will be dif­fer­ent in the women’s 400m as four-time win­ner Aman­tle Montsho of Botswana has been sus­pended af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for a banned stim­u­lant at the Com­mon­wealth Games last week.

There is hope for im­prove­ment from South Africa, who were ranked num­ber one af­ter the 2008 and 2006 edi­tions but slumped to third from the Benin 2012 and Kenya 2010 cham­pi­onships.

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