Qualifying marks for Semenya, Mokoena

2012-04-21 17:11

South African Olympics medal hopefuls Caster Semenya and Khotso Mokoena left it late to make the 2012 London Olympic Games’ A-standard qualifying times on the domestic front.

Semenya on Friday won the 800m final in 1:59.58, in a race she credited the pacemaker from Namibia – Tjipekapora Herunga – for setting her to a fast time during the Yellow Pages Series III at Tuks Stadium in Pretoria.

Mokoena (27), who brought back the only medal from the 2008 Beijing Games, took his first jump with an 8.29m leap to overcome last weekend’s disappointment of being dethroned by an upstart during the SA Championships in Port Elizabeth.

The standards on Friday of the two 2009 world championships medallists became the world leading marks in their respective events so far this year.

However, “Crocodile”, as the lanky Mokoena is called by his peers, must make another qualifying jump in an international meeting to fully meet Sascoc and Athletics SA selection criteria.

Semenya, the 2009 world champion, has joined LJ van Zyl, Cornel Fredericks (both 400m hurdles), Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and Willem Coertzen (decathlon) – who have all met the criteria.

Semenya said she felt special about her achievement in the build-up to her maiden Olympics.

“I feel very special today for running below two minutes at home for the first time,” said Semenya, who attained the feat only mastered by Zelda Pretorius when Semenya was three months old.

Pretorius clocked 1:58.85 in April 1991, also in Pretoria.

“I almost made it in 2009 but I was a kid then and I am more mature now,” said Semenya.

She sprang into prominence on the continent when she lowered her personal best from 2:00.58 to win the 2009 African Junior Championships in 1:56.72 in Mauritius.

This was prior to the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany where she clocked 1:55.45, well off Czech Republic’s Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world record of 1:53.28, set in 1983.

Mokoena also, for the first time in a while, had a coach by his side. He was guided by Hansie Coetzee, a qualified scientist and an international mentor who took over after the ­self-coaching jumper faltered at the world champs last year.

While Friday night was a celebration for Semenya and Mokoena, former world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi left the Pretoria meeting a disappointed man.

He ran below the required 1:45.60 A-standard mark with his winning time of 1:46.12 in the 800m final.

The 31-year-old Mulaudzi will line up in the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai, China on May 19.

There are two events left in the domestic calendar – the SA Student Championships in Johannesburg from April 27-28 and the SA Open Championships in Pretoria on May 4-5.

» For more on Mokoena’s new coach, see citypress.co.za


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