SA in the medals

2013-08-19 00:00

JOHAN Cronje saved the best for last yesterday and saved the day for the South African athletics team who looked set to return home tomorrow from the World Championships in Moscow without a medal.

“I believed in myself … [but] I wouldn’t have put money on myself,” said a delighted Cronje, who zipped through on the inside to take the 1 500 m bronze medal in a tactical final.

“I think if I wasn’t boxed in I could have snatched second, but I had a terrible tactical race.”

Asbel Kiprop took control of the race from the gun, pulling the field through 400 in 59.68 but was well clear when he completed the second lap in 1:59,24, and Cronje found himself boxed in on the kerb initially in fifth then dropping back to eighth with 300 to go.

“I couldn’t go fast as everyone was on my right and I had [Matthew] Centrowitz ahead. It was only the last 60 I had to go past as that’s when it opened up [on the inside].”

It was only hours before the race that Cronje realised that the tactics in the final would be different from his previous expectations.

“I realised that everyone was in there as individuals, the Kenyans weren’t going to run as a team, so they were watching each other and would also have Centrowtiz on their mind, so perhaps they would forget a guy like myself or Brannen from Canada,” said Cronje of his pre-race analysis.

“Before the race I knew it could be slow. I had to be up front and I had to be wide, and everything I knew I didn’t do.”

After 900 m the South African realised he had to find a way out.

“I was swearing at myself [for being boxed in],” explained Cronje. “I waited for that 20 centimetres to open up and I moved through on the inside.”

The rest is history. Cronje stood hands on his head awaiting the results which showed that he had put South Africa onto the medal table.

“Its always been a dream of mine to run in Zurich so if I can get some leave I think I’ll get an invite there,” said Cronje of the rest of the season.

Anaso Jobodwana provided the other highlight of the weekend finishing sixth in the 200 m final. Jamaican world record holder Usain Bolt won and regained the sprint double, adding this to the Beijng and London Olympic doubles.

Although still the third slowest out of the blocks, Jobodwana was close to Netherland’s Churandy Martina coming off the bend and with 60 metres remaining found the energy to accelerate, but tired towards the line where he was clocked at 20,14 seconds, 0,01 seconds outside his personal best.

“I was happy about how I ran — I didn’t lag this time as I did in London [Olympics],” he said.

“When I got to the straight I tried to kick and he was coming [back] but I started to tie up.

“I don’t want to use age as an excuse, I don’t like that and I don’t want it,” added Jobodwana, who made public that he turned professional after the World Student Games last month.

“I know it takes time but age isn’t an excuse, because all those guys have done better than I am doing when they were 21 years olds.”

South Africa’s brightest sprint hope is philosophical in appraising his first World Championships.

“The up is that I ran three consistent races of a high standard. I made it to the final, but making the final is not enough,” he said.

Jobodwana caught the attention of Bolt when he appeared on his inside in the semi-final and the appreciation of his progress was obvious both before and after the final where they exchanged fist-taps.

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