SA's athletes make their mark in world track and field

2011-06-07 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s leading athletes continue to make a mark on the international track and field scene, with Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena the most consistent performer at the Samsung Diamond League event in Oregon, USA, at the weekend.

Mokoena leapt over eight metres in each of his trials and was leading the long jump until Britain’s Greg Rutherford harnessed the strong tailwind to go beyond the UK national record to 8,32 m.

Despite a valiant attempt to wrest back the lead, Mokoena narrowly missed with his next attempt of 8,31 m and had to settle for second. With 11 weeks to the World Championships in South Korea, Mokoena can be well pleased with his performance, but he will have to ensure it’s not too much too soon, given the long season.

On the other hand, Caster Semenya, defending 800 m World champion appears to have been purposely graduating her improvements. On Saturday against a strong field she dipped under the two-minute barrier for the first time this season. Semenya lined up against current Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, 2007 World champion Janeth Jepkoskei, Kenia Sinclair and Maggie Vessey. Vessey and Sinclair have some of the fastest times for 2011.

After staying in the pack for most of the race Sinclair pulled away with Semenya just failing to keep tabs on the Jamaican, who clocked 1:58.29, the fastest time in the world this year. Semenya’s 1:58.88 is a world qualifying mark, third fastest in the world and a season’s best.

Oscar Pistorius continues in his bid to qualify for the World Championships, but remains well off the required pace. His last place finish in 46.33 in a quality 400 m field does not hold much hope of the Blade Runner making the cut.

Sunette Viljoen put her spear out over 60 metres again on Saturday, but remains short of the 64 plus metres required to be a serious conten­der in South Korea.

Ruben Ramolefi continues to gain experience in the racing pack, something he has little opportunity of doing at home where he is in a league of his own.

Ramolefi finished fourth in the 3 000 m steeplechase, which was dominated by Kenyans and won by Ezekiel Kemboi in 8:08.34 from Paul Koech in 8:10.13.

Tebogo Masehla, South Africa’s leading lady in the steeplechase, rewrote her national record in Oordegem, Belgium, on Saturday. Masehla finished second in 9:54.19, improving the record she set back in 2007 by just under a second. Although a break through for the Vaal athlete, there is still some way to go to get the World qualifying mark of nine minutes 43 seconds. Masehla will have her next opportunity in Turin on Saturday.

Earlier in the week in Bydgoszcz, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi finished fifth in the 800 m clocking 1:46.59. Mapaseka Makhanya set a new personal best of 9:22.94 for 3 000 m.

The South Africa youth team overran countries competing at the Southern Region Youth championships in Namibia.

The team earned 23 gold, 19 silver and eight bronze medals, making a total of 50 compared with second-placed Botswana, which had 12 medals including three gold which tied them with the host country.

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