Team SA top medal haul in U18 world champs
SOUTH Africa topped the medals table for the first time at the World Under18 Athletics Championships in Nairobi yesterday.
SA’s athletes won 10 medals, including five golds, over the fiveday championships. They started the final day in front of capacity crowd of over 60 000 spectators with a 12 in the men’s 200 metres, won by Retshidisitswe Mlenga (17) in a season’s best time of 21,03. Mlenga held off compatriot Tshenolo Lemao in a reverse result to the men’s 100m. “I came in very focused, having made a mistake in the 100m finals that happens to be my favourite race,” said Mlenga. “I listened to my coach’s instructions this time, and I am happy to have won the gold medal.”
Lemao, who won South Africa’s first ever gold in the 100m, took silver in a personal best of 21,12 while Germany’s Luis Brandner (21,23) was third.
On the penultimate day, high jumper Breyton Poole had the crowd on its feet as he added six centimetres to his personal best to earn the boys’ high jump title. Only 1,72m tall, the diminutive athlete cleared 2,24m to earn a comfortable victory, just one centimetre short of Jacques Freitag’s 18year old national youth best. “I feel great, having set two best heights in the same competition. Previous coaches discouraged me because of my height ... Today I proved them all wrong.”
Later, in the evening session, Sokwakhana Zazini and Zeney van der Walt added double gold in the boys’ and girls’ 400m hurdles finals.
Zazini, who holds the world youth best of 48,84 seconds, won in 49,27, almost three seconds clear of his nearest opponent.
“The whole world and South Africa was watching so I had to deliver,” Zazini said.
Van der Walt delivered a gutsy performance to snatch gold from Jamaican favourite Sanique Walker.
Though Walker held a convincing lead at the start of the home straight, she clattered into the final hurdle and Van der Walt launched a stunning late attack, dipping on the line to win by 0.04 in 58.23.
“I did not expect to win,” Van der Walt admitted. “I just kept on pushing till the end because I still had the energy. I’m very happy.”
Closing out a fine day of podium performances for the team, Morné Brandon added a crucial bronze medal, heaving his discus 58,34m out of the cage. — AFP.