Time for more competitors at the top

2012-10-13 15:02

Present winners hoping for support

The pressure of consistently being the sole representatives of the country in international events is steadily catching up with Caster Semenya, Khotso Mokoena, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Sunette Viljoen and Ruben Ramolefi.

Apart from Semenya, Mulaudzi and Ramolefi, the other athletes share the distinction of having qualified for the last three Olympic Games and the IAAF World Championships.

The athletes believe that new blood must step up to help ease the burden.

Despite her relatively scant experience on the international stage, Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya said: “There is always pressure in competing but an added burden comes in the form of high expectation from the country.”

The 21-year-old, who graduated to the senior ranks three years ago, was unable to defend her world title and had to settle for a runners-up spot at the world championships in South Korea last year.

She said: “As a medal contender, people always expect me to bring something back but they tend to forget that I am still learning. At this stage, it is hard to say who is coming through because it depends on development. For now, I am doing it through discipline and determination.”

At some point, Mapaseka Makhanya looked like the real deal when she dominated the 800m in the absence of Semenya, but she later switched her focus to the 1 500m.

National 800m youth record-holder Monique Stander (17) has also shown flashes of promise in the past two years.

Semenya said: “I would like to see at least three South Africans in the final of my event.

“It’s not easy competing against Kenyan and Russian teams who go into the race knowing they stand a good chance for a medal.”

Semenya’s newest rivals in the two-lap event are Kenya’s Pamela Jelimo, and Russia’s Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova, who took gold and bronze at this year’s Olympics.

Former men’s 800m world champion, Mulaudzi, said: “We need more athletes at international competitions. I was fortunate to have shared the responsibilities with Hezekiel Sepeng and I got used to the pressure after doing it for many years. It’s good to see youngsters such as Andre Oliver (22) coming through.”

Mulaudzi, a silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics has been struggling with injuries lately and couldn’t defend his title in South Korea last year or make the team for the London Olympics due to an Achilles tendon sprain.

The men’s long jump has seen the rise of new talent in the last three years with the emergence of the likes of Luvo Manyonga (21), Mpho Maphutha (19) and Duwayne Boer (17), all of whom are capable of breaching the 8m mark.

Boer and Maphutha are guided by Tuks Athletics coach Neil Cornelius.

“I’ve got a couple of juniors who are on the verge of breaking into the senior scene next year. Mpho and Duwayne are definitely forerunners for the future and they should be ready for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.”

In another field event, javelin thrower Viljoen has carried the spear on her own lately as her one-time national teammate, Justine Robbeson, experienced mixed fortunes last year.

Viljoen has appeared at three Olympics and world champs, with her best outcome a bronze in South Korea last year and fourth place at the London Games.

At 34, Ramolefi still harbours hopes of running at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The 3 000m steeplechaser is also hoping that new competitors will soon break into this event.

Upcoming talent includes Tumelo Motlagale (25) and Sibusiso Madikizela (22).

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