Team SA top medal haul in U18 world champs

The Witness - - SPORT -

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.

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