Mokoka breaks 20-year record

2015-04-19 15:00

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Unassuming endurance runner Stephen Mokoka smashed the 20-year-old 5?000m SA record in a time of 3:10.89 at yesterday’s SA Senior Track and Field Championships. His performance overshadowed those of his more popular fellow athletes.

Mokoka’s blistering pace took a chunk out of Shadrack Hoff’s 1995 mark of 13:14.16. He also added his name to the national champions and earning a world championship qualifying mark.

Earlier in the day, Olympians Caster Semenya, Anaso Jobodwana and Khotso Mokoena were among the prominent local athletes leading the gold medal rush at the championships.

Semenya ushered in her fifth national title in the 800m race while London Olympics semifinalist Jobodwana ran 20.36 in the 200m for his maiden SA senior crown. Semenya’s winning time of 2:05 was 0.04?seconds outside this year’s IAAF World Championships entry standard, along with Mokoena’s 16.63m mark in the triple jump final.

But time is still on the pair’s side. August 10 is the qualification deadline and the pair will still have a chance to improve in prestigious international events like the IAAF Diamond League.

The two-day meeting at Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch served as a qualifier for the global event in Beijing, China, from August 22-30.

Others who provisionally earned places in Beijing yesterday were Sunette Viljoen (javelin), Ruswahl Samaai (long jump), Lebogang Shange and Wayne Snyman (both 20km race walk), LJ van Zyl and

Wenda Nel (both 400m hurdles), and Wayde van Niekerk (400m).

Despite not having clocked the world champs entry mark yesterday, SA’s fastest man over 100m, Akani Simbine, had already done so before the nationals. His times of 10.09 (100m) and 20.27 (200m) meet the required standards for Beijing.

Simbine (22) has now displaced national record holder, Simon Magakwe, as the new 100m champ. Six-time SA champion Magakwe missed the event as he is embroiled in an anti-doping violation.

Semenya assured her fans the best was yet to come.

She said she was happy with her achievement.

“My coach [Jean Verster] said it was not about chasing the [fast] times but to run good and get my confidence back. It’s a plan to race tactically and not hurt myself, especially coming back from injuries.

“But it feels good to come back here and do what I do best. My aim is to use Europe to peak at the right time. I know what I’m capable of and it’s just a matter of getting race-fit. I’m a patient athlete,” said Semenya, who now runs in the colours of Central North West as she is based at North-West University in Potchefstroom.

Jobodwana said he was likely to race at the Jamaican invitational meeting next month. He said he was still a work in progress, and wanted to clock faster times when he returns to action next month.

“I still have to work on my bend running. I’m still a bit rusty coming off the straight and the finish.”

Mokoena said he would try to qualify for both the long and triple jumps.

He will compete in the long jump in the Shanghai, China, Diamond League on May 17.

“The difficult part to handle is to be patient but I’ll peak in June or maybe the beginning of July,” said Mokoena.

He said he was impressed by the depth in the men’s jumps – after Samaai (23) produced the highlight of day with an 8.38m jump, the leading distance in the world. It was just 12cm short of equalling Mokoena’s standing national and African record of 8.50m.

Not to be outdone, veteran hammer thrower Chris Harmse (41) powered to his 20th consecutive national title with a distance of 71.98m.

The qualification of a number of SA athletes to Beijing will enhance their bid for places at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This could fulfil SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s dream of four medals by the track and field squad in Brazil.

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