Mission to Marrakech: Win more gold

2014-08-10 15:00

The South African track and field team have Nigeria and Kenya to beat in the 19th edition of the continental championships in Marrakech, Morocco, today.

This is based on rankings between the three nations over the past four African Championships.

The three produced a neck-and-neck finish at the recent Commonwealth Games, where South Africa finished seventh, ahead of Nigeria (eighth) and Kenya (ninth) on the medals tables at the event in Glasgow, Scotland.

Competition at the African Championships is expected to be fierce as the event serves as trials for the IAAF Intercontinental Cup at the same venue next month.

Team SA’s trip to Morocco was nearly overshadowed by a selection controversy after middle-distance runners Johan Cronje, André Olivier and Elroy Gelant were left out of the provisional team despite meeting the qualifying criteria.

Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana said: “The three were included last week. We expect good performances in Morocco, which means the spotlight will return to the athletes and the coaches. They remained focused despite the infighting among the administrators in the past few years.”

He said the federation was hoping for another good medal haul after Glasgow, where 13 athletes?–?including two para-athletes?–?brought back nine medals.

Simon Magakwe will defend his 100m title this afternoon. This should serve as a platform for his redemption after his disappointing run in Glasgow. He has a credible African record with five medals from the past two editions.

Team SA are also defending champions in the 110m hurdles, discus, hammer throw, shot put and 4x100m relay.

Skhosana said the African Championships and the Commonwealth Games were an ideal build-up to the World Athletics Championships, which are set to take place in Beijing, China, next year.

In Morocco, South Africa’s fiercest challenge in the middle-distance events will come from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda; while Egypt and Algeria will pose a serious threat in the throws.

The continental championships could also set the stage for South Africa’s sprint double (200m and 400m) champion Justine Palframan to size up Nigerian superstar Blessing Okagbare in the women’s 200m dash. Okagbare won the sprint double (100m and 200m) at the Commonwealth Games.

The competition will be different in the women’s 400m as four-time winner Amantle Montsho of Botswana has been suspended after testing positive for a banned stimulant at the Commonwealth Games last week.

There is hope for improvement from South Africa, who were ranked number one after the 2008 and 2006 editions but slumped to third from the Benin 2012 and Kenya 2010 championships.

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