‘Croc’ promises more bite this year

2015-04-26 15:00

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Taking inspiration from legendary jumpers Carl Lewis and Mike Powell, South African champion Khotso Mokoena wants to prolong his career in the jumps.

The 30-year-old had initially hinted at hanging up his spikes after next year’s Olympic Games, but he believes he still has years of high-level competition left.

“It was my plan [to retire] but now I’m back on my horse and I’ll push it like Lewis and Powell. I’m actually at my peak now and I can go on for the next four years,” said Mokoena, who defended his national triple jump title at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships last weekend.

Americans Lewis and Powell were long jump rivals in the late 1980s and continued to battle each other through much of the 1990s.

Powell outjumped Lewis when he set the 8.95m world record in 1991. He retired at 33 after the 1996 Olympics, and his global mark still stands.

Lewis retired at 35, also in 1996.

“Croc”, as Mokoena is known in athletics circles, ranks among the best jumpers in the world. He is the African and national record holder with a jump of 8.50m in Spain almost six years ago – a record that still stands.

“After a successful 2014, I am looking forward to better results than last year. I’ll debut my season in Shanghai in the IAAF Diamond League in the long jump. The season will start there for me,” he said.

The reigning Commonwealth Games and African triple jump champion has also predicted a medal from the men’s jumps at next year’s Olympics. “Absolutely for long jump and I count myself for a medal in both the long and triple jump events. I’ll do both at the world championships [in Beijing, China, in August] and will also take my chances in both events at the Rio Olympics [next year],” he added.

Mokoena, who is still chasing a senior world champs gold medal, was South Africa’s sole medallist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he secured silver in the long jump.

“We’ve got good long jumpers, unlike in the past. I remember in 2005, 2008 and 2009 where I used to be alone in major championships [representing South Africa]. I’d look to my left and see three Americans in the line-up.

“It’s good that we now have three capable long jumpers,” he said, referring to his long jump rivals Rushwahl Samaai (24) and Zarck Visser (26). Samaai was crowned the new national long jump champion after he recorded a world-leading jump of 8.38m at the SA Champs last Saturday.

“Ruswahl is definitely the guy to look forward to. He’s in good shape. He is an incredible long jumper,” said Mokoena.

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