SA end Champs with gold medal

2009-08-24 00:00

KHOTSO Mokoena and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi made it a weekend of medals for the South African team at the World Athletics Championships.

“This is the most important medal,” said the 29-year-old Mulaudzi, who over his long career already has an Olympic Silver, and World Indoor Gold medals to his name. “Today I was brave enough to control the race and to change the gears in my own time”

It could all so easily have been different. On Friday Mulaudzi spent anxious minutes awaiting the outcome of the third semi-final as he had been shut out into fourth place in his own race.

He only qualified for the final as the second of two fastest losers, but it was a different man who took on and shook apart the world’s best 800 m runners last night.

Running from the outside lane, he closed into the inside lane and dictated the pace, taking them through the bell in 53,44 seconds and then applying the pressure. At 200 m he applied the next push, all the time upping the pace. As he powered down the home straight he held off the inevitable challenge and started a desperate, but successful, dip into the line and a gold medal. Both defending champion Alfred Yego and Yusuf Kamel were given identical times of 1:45,35 for silver and bronze respectively.

“I was not disappointed to qualify as a fastest loser. I’ve done three championships that didn’t work out, so I have spoken during the week to my wife, my coach [J.P. van der Merwe] and my manager spoke about this many times and we agreed I had to run free and relax — that’s the only way I could run. So I had to control the race,” said Mulaudzi. “At the 300 the pace was slow so I picked up as I felt the guys were tired, so I took on a long kick so everyone would die before the finish, and it worked!”

On Saturday night, long jumper Godfrey Khotso Mokoena matched his Beijing Olympic silver medal with another of the same colour from the 12th World Championships.

Two time World Champion and Athens Olympic champion Dwight Phillips lived up to his status as the ‘Comeback Kid’, opening with a leap of 8,40 metres, while Mokoena had a no-jump. A ranging second round jump of 8,54 m put the American into a lead that would never be surpassed.

Mokoena’s best came in the second round where, against 0,1m/s wind he recorded his second best ever distance of 8,47 metres, moving into second spot which he maintained through the final eight jump-off.

LateSaturday morning South Africa’s marathoners restored the country’s distance running pride in the World Championships marathon, won by Kenyan Abel Kirui in a new Championship time of 2:06:54.

Kirui broke away from Emanuel Mutai in the final six kilometres, leaving his countryman to finish just less than a minute adrift and Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede completing the podium positions in 2:08:35.

Early leader Robert Cheruiyot crossed the line in fifth in 2:10:46 to give Kenya the team gold, ahead of Ethiopia.

The South African trio was amongst the massive lead group from the beginning with Coolboy Ngamole taking the more aggressive position, while Joseph Kekana and Norman Dlomo stayed slightly further adrift.

The eight athlete breakaway went through half way in 63 minutes three seconds, with Dlomo in 13th, Ngamole 15th, and Kekana 21st, putting the team in third position. The South Africans maintained their position as the third team as they passed the 30 km mark, but conservative starts by the Japanese and Portuguese combinations saw them scythe their way through the field, displacing South Africa into fifth at the finish.

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