Hurdlers do SA proud as Semenya prepares to defend her title

2011-08-31 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s 400 m hurdlers delivered a second successful day for the team at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, yesterday.

Despite having the second slowest reaction time, L.J. van Zyl was in the lead after 150 m with only American Bershaw Jackson making inroads on the second bend. As van Zyl eased off he had to switch legs for the final hurdle, allowing Russian Aleksandr Derevyagin to close on the lead on the outside, making it touch and go at the line.

Jackson took the line in 48,80 seconds with van Zyl on 49,05 and only 0,02 seconds ahead of the Russian, who ran a season’s best of 49,07 to qualify as one of the two fastest losers.

“I was watching inside [Jackson]. It was my wrong leg for the last hurdle and I didn’t hear anything so I never realised the Russian caught up. It was almost a mistake, I’m glad I got through,” said the Tukkies athlete who is at his fourth world championships and last made the final in his debut in Helsinki in 2005.

Van Zyl will be joined by Cornel Fredericks in the final after the Cape-based athlete secured his qualification behind Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, considered by many to be the main contender.

Fredericks was in fourth midway through the second bend, but overcame fatigue to pull through to second.

“My tactic for tonight was just to go out and win the race because I had to be in the top two and that’s what I did tonight. I felt so tired in the last 100 m I just focused on pulling to the line, I wasn’t aware of Taylor on the outside,” said Fredericks.

Angelo Taylor, the Beijing Olympics champion, is ranked fourth this year, but collapsed over the line after having to fight hard to get to Fredericks, making the final in 48,86.

At 21 Fredericks is the youngest of the experienced hurdle finalists, with Felix Sanchez, who celebrated his 34th birthday with a second place in the second heat, the oldest. While the multiple world and Athens Olympic Champion cannot be discounted, Britain’s David Greene is a strong contender.

If Van Zyl finds his form he could earn the medal that has eluded him for the past four championships.

Wenda Theron (23), a specialist in 100 m hurdles, earned full marks for also attempting the near impossible — qualifying for the women's 400 m hurdles. She was in the top three on the last bend, but faded badly to finish last in 57,06 seconds.

“It was an excellent experience. I wouldn’t change it for anything else in the world. Yesterday was a perfect race. I can’t ask for a perfect race and then ask for another one the next day. I’m proud of myself, I’m glad, “ said Theron who has already identified some areas for improvement.

“In South Africa there’s only a final; I run one race. In the student games there were rest days between [rounds] that made a difference, that’s the other thing. I need more experience of racing three days consecutively.”

South Africans have a busy day of competition tomorrow.

In addition to the 400 m hurdle final, Sunette Viljoen, the world student champion, and Justin Robbeson open their javelin campaign, while Robert Oosthuizen will try to repeat his 2007 progression to the men’s javelin final, where he has a reasonable shot at a podium place.

Olympic and World silver medallist Khotso Mokoena and Luvo Manyonga compete for places in the long jump final. In the evening Ruben Ramolefi will target another SA record in the 3000 m steeplechase, which is expected to be dominated by Kenyans under leadership of Brimin Kipruto.

The first round of the men’s 4 x 400 relay could see Oscar Pistorius back on the track, while the world awaits the women’s 800 metre heats tomorrow (4:40 am SA time) when Caster Semenya defends her 2009 World Championship title.

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