HOW SA FARED IN THE PAST
South Africa’s senior track and field athletes have been basking in glory for the past few days – but now the spotlight turns to the country’s equally promising young brigade, who begin their quest for medals in the upcoming International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.
The global youth competition runs in Cali from Wednesday until Sunday. Team SA will compete at the four-day global track and field competition after conquering the continent three months ago.
Spearheaded by 17-year-old sprinter Gift Leotlela, the national youth team bagged 17 gold medals at the 15 out of 32 nations on the medal table 2 – gold in the women’s 400m hurdles; bronze in the women’s high jump African Youth Championships in Mauritius in April.
Leotlela, from the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, is currently ranked number two in the world. He has had a blinder of a season since breaking the SA youth 200m record at the Gauteng North Championships in March. His time of 20.63 was 0.16 faster than the mark set by Leigh Julius in 6 out of 30 5 – gold in men’s 110m hurdles and men’s javelin; silver in men’s triple jump and men’s javelin; bronze in men’s discus 2002. He followed that up with gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the continental championships.
Leotlela and Kyle Appel (17) – a 100m silver medallist in Mauritius – as well as Clarence Munyai, have clocked South Africa’s seven fastest 200m times in the world this year, and are all ranked inside the 24 out of 39 2 – silver in men’s long jump; bronze in men’s shot put current IAAF youth top 10 list.
However, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown of Japan leads the pack with the fastest youth time, with 10.30 in the 100m and 20.56 in the 200m.
Leotlela’s coach, Hennie Kriel, said his charge would only contest the 200m in Cali, as Team SA arrive only two days before the 100m heats.
“He is in good shape and all I have requested from him is to make the final, and anything can happen,” said Kriel.
Leotlela started the year as the fastest in the 100m in the world when he took the national short dash title in 10.41 at the SA Junior and Youth Championships in Bloemfontein in April.
Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana will accompany the team to Cali.
“The world championships are different to the continental events. But we have assembled a team that is capable of winning medals in the sprints, the jumps and the throws,” said Skhosana.
Other medal hopefuls in Colombia are Patrick Duvenhage (discus), Burger Lambrechts (shot put) and Taylon Bieldt (100m hurdles).