An extraordinary year for athletics

2009-12-29 11:32


SOUTH African athletics was never the same after Caster ­Semenya

brought home the country’s first IAAF World Championship gold medal since

Hestrie Cloete in 2003.

In fact, veteran marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala summed it up well

when he said 2009 “was summarised by Caster”.

While the aftermath of the World Championships in Berlin, Germany,

in August cost the entire board of Athletics SA (ASA) their jobs, Semenya turned

out to be the sacrificial lamb at the end of it all.

Her gender verification

saga overshadowed even the remarkable achievements of Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and

Khotso Mokoena in a season that also saw javelin-thrower Sunette ­Viljoen come

of age.

Viljoen won gold at the Summer Universiade in Belgium, throwing

62.52m and setting a new African record of 65.46m in the qualifiers to eclipse

Justine Robbeson’s record of 63.49m.

Mulaudzi, after commanding the runners-up medal for the better part

of his international ­career to earn the nickname of the “Silver Bullet”, is the

current 800m champion, while Mokoena is the world’s No?2 long-jumper.

But all

these achievements were dwarfed by Semenya’s transition from junior to senior by


After a quiet start in the ­domestic Yellow Pages Series ­between

January and April, the Tuks Athletics Club runner hogged the headlines when she

stormed home with new records at the African Junior Championships in the city of

Bambous, Mauritius, on July 31.

Semenya’s winning times of 1:56.72 in the 800m and 4:08.01 in

1?500m races shattered the longstanding domestic feats of Zola Budd (junior) and

Zelda Pretorius (senior) set in 1984 and 1991.

Such exploits accounted for Team SA’s total haul of 22 medals – 11

gold, seven silver and four bronze. At the Mauritius championships Semenya

overshadowed fellow record-breakers Cornel Fredericks (400m hurdles), Cheyne

Rahme (pole vault) and Gert Swanepoel (decathlon).

“It was as if the athletics ­season started in August,” said

Ramaala, who has been a member of the nine-person ad hoc committee since the

suspension of the entire ASA board.

Other members are Geraldine Pillay, Aleck

Skhosana, James Moloi, Pieter Lourens, James Evans, Daan Louw and James Mokoka.

Since the appointment of the new leadership there is hope on the

horizon. According to acting principal Ray Mali, the sponsors are willing to

return to local ­athletics again.

There are minimal changes to the existing structures.

That means

next year’s track and field schedule will take place between January and April.

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