South African athletes have most successful day in afterglow of Semenya glory

2009-08-21 00:00

“SIX personal bests out of 10 events, 14th in the world, and a new national record — who could be unhappy with that?” said Willem Coertzen after the gruelling two-day decathlon at the World Athletics championship in Berlin last night.

Coertzen was on fire from the first event, which saw the 26-year-old set a new season and personal best in the 110 m high hurdles of 14,26 seconds.

This shaved 0,07 seconds from his previous mark and earned 941 points, ranking him 14th after six events. It was a trend he would maintain throughout the day.

A second round throw in the discus landed on 42,40 m, adding five centimetres to his personal record. Even the 32°C heat of Berlin’s afternoon sun could not stop the UK based teacher, who opened his pole vault at four metres, skipped to 4,2, faltered with three attempts at 4,3, but went on to go clear at 4,6 metres, 15 cm higher than his previous best.

The roll continued in the javelin with a first throw of 65,46 eclipsing another best by 14 cm and putting the South African on 7 418 points for 14th position going into the final 1 500 m race.

Taking a conservative start, Coertzen gradually moved through the field, passing the 800 mark in two minutes 28 seconds. Moving through to seventh in his heat, he pushed with 200 m to go in the hope of earning the fifth and final personal best, but five hours in the sun for the pole vault had drained the legs, which could only carry across the line in four minutes 32,57 seconds. Those valuable 728 points took the two-day total to 8 146 and the new national record.

“When I started in the 1 500 m, I could just feel the day’s effort in my legs.

“My problem is getting stuff from training into competition. In training I’ve been throwing javelin 69 to 70 metres, but in decathlon I’m hitting 65. I’m … inexperienced in decathlon, but every decathlon I’ve had has been a PB [personal best] — I can’t complain. It’s been absolutely awesome so far, and 14th in the world — not many people can say that!”

In the morning’s 800 m first round Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki controlled the first heat, keeping the field at bay and going through 400 in 53,13 seconds. With 250 metres to go, the pair pushed for the line, with the South African having the edge in one minute 46,40 seconds.

Brazil’s Fabiano Pecanha secured the final automatic qualifier.

“It’s enough … I know so,” said Samson Ngoepe after finishing fourth in 1:46,54 in the third of seven heats. “I went out very hard, perhaps too hard,” continued Ngoepe, who was third into the home straight.

The 24-year-old qualified for today’s semis as the first of three fastest losers.

It was South Africa’s most successful day of the championships so far.

“Everyone’s motivation is up — that’s why we are running so hard now,” said Ngoepe of the team’s reaction to Caster Semenya’s golden 800 m race on Wednesday night.

Long jumper Godfrey Khotso Mokoena took the positive form into the evening session, out-leaping the automatic qualifying mark of 8,15 metres with his second attempt. After opening with a no-jump, the 24-year-old hit form, reaching out to 8,29 metres, which placed him third best of the qualifiers.

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