Mzansi medal haul shat­ters old mould

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

As South Africa’s golden girl Caster Semenya gears up to re­claim the women’s 800m ti­tle tonight, Athletics SA will look back to this year’s championships as the most suc­cess­ful in re­cent years. The IAAF World Championships has seen Mzansi reach a haul of five medals, the high­est in his­tory, and that list could grow tonight should Semenya power her­self to gold.

Only the brave few will bet against the Lim­popoborn star as she has been in fan­tas­tic form since the be­gin­ning of the year.

She won her semi­fi­nal heat – round one – clock­ing in 1:58:90, and she will face fa­mil­iar foes in Francine Niyon­s­aba of Bu­rundi and Mar­garet Wam­bui of Kenya, whom she has not lost against this year.

For South Africans, this year’s championships will be remembered for two of its big­gest stars, Wayde van Niek­erk and Semenya, who ven­tured into new events in the men’s 200m and women’s 1 500m.

They ex­celled at their first time of ask­ing in th­ese events and have promised to do them reg­u­larly. Olympic record-holder Van Niek­erk had com­mit­ted him­self early be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion to do the 200m, but Semenya de­cided just two weeks be­fore the championships that she wanted to try out the 1 500m. Semenya also did the 4x400m re­lay as part of her plans to do more events at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Ja­pan, in 2020.

Van Niek­erk clocked 20.09 sec­onds to take sil­ver in the 200m to add to the gold he won in the 400m, while Semenya took a bronze medal in the 1 500m man­ag­ing 4:02.09 in an event that she does not spe­cialise in.

Team SA sent 27 ath­letes to London.

Lows

South African 100m record-holder Akani Sim­bine was per­haps the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment at the championships. He held his own to fin­ish fifth with 10.15 sec­onds in a tough 100m fi­nal. He sur­pris­ingly failed to qual­ify for the 200m fi­nal af­ter clock­ing 20.62 to fin­ish in seventh place in the semi­fi­nal.

His sea­son best is 19.97 in the 200m, but he flopped when he was ex­pected to com­pete with Van Niek­erk in the fi­nal. Sim­bine promised a lot, but de­liv­ered lit­tle. For a man of his cal­i­bre, he was ex­pected to do bet­ter and so we wait for his first major in­ter­na­tional podium.

The marathon team

As an ex­pe­ri­enced mem­ber of the team, Lusapho April didn’t bother to show up on race day, re­port­edly be­cause of is­sues with his pass­port. But in­sid­ers said that was not en­tirely true, and the rea­son he de­cided to snub the marathon team was that he was al­legedly no longer in­ter­ested in the race.

Sibu­siso Nz­ima pulled out af­ter 27km due to fa­tigue, while Des­mond Mok­gobu could only man­age 21st place with a time of 2:16:14.

The ladies team of Ma­paseka Makhanya and Jenna Chal­lenor man­aged 40th with 2:47:22 and 59th in 2:40:50, re­spec­tively.

The marathon team flopped, prov­ing once more that the state of SA marathon run­ning is on a down­ward spiral.

Young­sters Thando Roto and Clarence Mun­yai were dis­qual­i­fied in their 100m and 200m events.

Wenda Nel was elim­i­nated in the semi­fi­nal of the women’s 400m hur­dles af­ter clock­ing 55.70 sec­onds.

Highs

Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Sa­maai shone in the men’s long jump fi­nal. Manyonga took gold with a leap of 8.48m, while Sa­maai’s 8.32m jump earned him bronze. The pair be­came the first South African ath­letes to win two medals in the same event.

Van Niek­erk and Semenya’s gam­ble with more than one event paid off.

Medal tally

At the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China, South Africa man­aged only three medals – this time, they were on five be­fore Semenya’s run tonight.

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