Semenya, Manyonga the stars of SA athletics in an eventful 2010

2010-12-23 14:25

Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and junior long-jump champion Luvo Manyonga made July 2010 an outstanding month on the South African ­athletics ­calendar.

Semenya marked her ­long-awaited return to competition with a victory after an ­11-month hiatus.

Manyonga, a little-known athlete from Boland Athletics, leaped into the history annals with a gold medal at the 13th IAAF Junior Championship in Canada.

The 7.99m leap catapulted the 19-year-old into cult status, making him only the second South African – after Khotso Mokoena in 2004 – to secure a medal in the history of the ­Junior Championships.

Also in July, Manyonga ­shattered Mokoena’s junior record of 8.09m with a jump of 8.19m at a meeting in ­Germany. It was also an ­African record, surpassing the 8.12m set by ­Ignisious Gaisah of Ghana in 2002.

In the field events, javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen also went into the list of this year’s best ­performers. She smashed Justine Robbeson’s two-year record of 63.49m with a throw of 66.38m in Czech Republic in June.

After a four-year domination, South Africa finished third at the 17th edition of the African Senior Athletics Championship in Nairobi, Kenya, in August, and subsequently relinquished their top spot on the continent.

Team SA won six gold medals and fell behind Kenya (10) and Nigeria (eight).

In just a few months in charge, the Athletics South ­Africa (ASA) interim board was marred by a spate of ­resignations, with the first to jump ship Western Province’s James Evans in January.

Hendrick Ramaala followed suit in April, citing his ­frustration at the way ­administrator Ray Mali – ­appointed by the South African Sports Confederation and ­Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last November – was running the sport.

ASA eventually went to the polls to fill the positions left vacant since the suspension of president Leonard Chuene and his board in November last year.

Ramaala and Evans made a dramatic return to the office and Evans was voted chairperson of the track and field ­commission. Former sprinter Geraldine Pillay was elected the chairperson of the athletes commission.

Others voted onto the board were Aleck Skhosana (chairperson of road running) and Blanche Moila (chairperson of cross-country).

However, it seems the spat between Sascoc and ASA’s suspended board just won’t die.

Animosity between the two bodies was further fuelled by a forensic report from auditing firm Deloitte that had implicated Chuene and the company in poor corporate governance.

Sascoc had earlier refused to appear before the sports ­portfolio committee to answer questions on the findings of the 100-odd-page report.

The Olympic governing body and ASA also had a tiff over the criteria used in the ­selection of athletes to the Commonwealth Games in ­India, where track and field ­athletes were notable ­casualties.

South Africa finished fifth on the table at the Commonwealth Games with 33 medals – 12 gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze.

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