IAAF Champs off to a fly­ing start

Night of mixed for­tunes for SA’s ath­letes at start of world com­pe­ti­tion

CityPress - - Sport - CHARLES BALOYI in Lon­don sports@city­press.co.za

It was a day of mixed emo­tions on the open­ing day of the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Fri­day night. The Lon­don or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee pulled out all the stops by stag­ing a memorable open­ing night in front of a sold-out crowd of 55 000 that created an elec­tri­fy­ing at­mos­phere.

Ath­let­ics is the num­ber one Olympic sport and it cer­tainly lived up to its billing on a glo­ri­ous night that saw Olympic su­per­stars Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, who ran in his fi­nal 10 000m fi­nal be­fore he hang­ing up his spikes, raise the roof with ex­cite­ment. Five years ago, all eyes were on Lon­don dur­ing the suc­cess­ful host­ing of the 2012 Olympic Games.

It is the first time that Lon­don is host­ing the event, which is dubbed the World Cup of ath­let­ics. About 2 000 ath­letes from more than 100 coun­tries will com­pete in the 10-day event.

Records are ex­pected to tum­ble and new per­sonal bests set in the com­ing days. With­out a doubt, the high­light of the open­ing day was Bri­tain’s Farah win­ning his third 10 000m ti­tle in his last ap­pear­ance to get a de­served stand­ing ova­tion and the loud­est cheer in the sta­dium.

Farah clocked 26:49:51 in an en­ter­tain­ing race to beat Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui (26:49:94) and Kenyan Paul Tanui (26:50:60) to the high­est place on the podium.

The world watched one of the great­est ath­letes of all time for the last time.

One of the most suc­cess­ful track and field Olympians in his­tory, Bolt, also brought some ex­cite­ment to the track in the men’s 100m heat round six, but it did not quite match Farah, who re­tired un­beaten from the Olympic Park venue.

Back to the South African con­tin­gent, long jumper Zarck Visser and sprint young­ster Thando Roto had a night to for­get, while mid­dle-dis­tance sen­sa­tion Stephen Mokoka reg­is­tered a sea­son best in the men’s 10 000m fi­nal. Mokoka fin­ished 20th with 28:14:67 against a strong field.

Star long jumper Luvo Many­onga and Rush­wal Sa­maai were still in con­tention to win medals as they suc­cess­fully booked long-jump fi­nal spots. Many­onga leapt to an 8.12m dis­tance and Sa­maai went bet­ter by cov­er­ing 8.14m. The qual­i­fy­ing dis­tance for last night’s fi­nal was 8.05m.

Dis­cus thrower Vic­tor also bowed out of the cham­pi­onships in an up and down night for Team SA. Hogan threw 62.26m to fin­ish 18th, but he needed 64.05m to book a place in the fi­nal.

But one of Mzansi’s favourite sprint­ers, Akani Sim­bine, nearly gave South African fans a heart at­tack when he ran a 10.15 sec­onds to fin­ish fourth in the men’s 100m, which nearly cost him a semi­fi­nal spot. But he promised to dou­ble his ef­fort to make the thrilling 100m fi­nal sched­uled for late last night on day two. Thando Roto had a world champs de­but to for­get as he was dis­qual­i­fied for a false start in the same race as US pow­er­house Justin Gatlin.

Roto was too dis­traught to give in­ter­views as he hung his head in shame. He be­came the sec­ond South African to be dis­qual­i­fied from the world champs – Anaso Jo­bod­wana was dis­qual­i­fied in the men’s 100m in Bei­jing in 2015.

Visser could not go fur­ther than 7.66m and he, too, was elim­i­nated in the long jump. He said he was out of shape and didn’t even ex­pect to qual­ify for the world champs in the first place. He claimed he was sur­prised to be named in the team.

“I didn’t even ex­pect to be here. I started my sea­son late this year. I didn’t have a great win­ter and started jump­ing late April. Men­tally, I’m not in the same place as the other guys. I was strug­gling with my run-ups the whole sea­son. I need to re­gain my self-con­fi­dence. A year ago, I was told that I wouldn’t jump again, but I’m slowly mak­ing my way back. It’s back to the draw­ing board for me.”

PHOTO: MATT DUNHAM / AP PHOTO

MAIN MAN Bri­tain’s Mo Farah cel­e­brates with his son, Hus­sein Mo Farah, af­ter win­ning the men's

10 000m fi­nal at the IAAF World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Fri­day evening

PHOTO: MATT DUNHAM / AP PHOTO

IN Luvo Many­onga qual­i­fied for last night’s men’s long-jump fi­nal

PHOTO: DY­LAN MARTINEZ / REUTERS

OUT Zarck Visser missed out on a place in last night’s men’s long-jump fi­nal

PHOTO: DY­LAN MARTINEZ / REUTERS

HE’S IN Rush­wahl Sa­maai qual­i­fied for last night’s men’s longjump fi­nals

PHOTO: ROGER SEDRES/ IMAGESA / GALLO IMAGES

DE­JECTED Thando Roto of South Africa af­ter be­ing dis­qual­i­fied for a false start in the 100m on Fri­day

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