6 SA medal prospects at IAAF World Champs

Wayde van Niekerk (Getty Images)
Wayde van Niekerk (Getty Images)

Cape Town - A 27-strong team has arrived in London to fly the South African flag high at the IAAF World Championships.

The championships get underway on Friday, August 4 and continue until Sunday, August 13.

The SA team won three medals at the 2015 Beijing World Championships - Wayde van Niekerk (gold in 400m), Anaso Jobodwana (bronze, 200m) and Sunette Viljoen (bronze, javelin).

This year there's a star-studded South African squad that have enjoyed a spectacular 2017 season and with a handful of individuals dominating the rankings in their specialist disciplines.

Here are six of the country's best chances at bringing home a medal in London:

1. Rushwahl Samaai (long jump)

Despite being overshadowed by compatriot Luvo Manyonga, Samaai is definitely a medal prospect in terms of his build-up to London.

The South African recorded a personal best at the SA national championships in Potchefstroom with a leap of 8.49m.

Consistent performances at the IAAF Diamond League meetings has seen Samaai pop up with podium finishes, including a men's long jump title in Morocco last month.

Samaai will get his World Championships campaign underway on the opening day in the heats (20:30 SA time).

2. Akani Simbine (100m, 200m)

Simbine holds the title of the fastest man in South Africa and his build-up to London has been spectacular.

Other than confirming his class as one of the top sprinters in Africa, Simbine has dipped under-10 seconds eight times this season.

He became the first South African to win a Diamond League 100m race in Doha in May and seized the 100m SA title from compatriot Wayde van Niekerk earlier this year.

At the Rio Olympics, Simbine was unnoticed as he finished fifth, however with the withdrawal of Andre de Grasse, there's an opportunity for Simbine to secure a podium position and edge closer to the invincible Usain Bolt.

Simbine will take to his block on Friday in the 100m heats (20:00 SA time).

3. Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles)

Alkana is one of the dark horses of the South African squad heading into London.

Earlier this year, Alkana broke the African and South African record in the 110m hurdles with a time of 13.11 when he won at the European Classic Permit Meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.

Alkana will get his campaign under way on Sunday in the men's 110m hurdles heats at 14:15 SA time.

4. Luvo Manyonga (long jump)

Manyonga's breakthrough performance came at the Rio Olympics when he leaped to a silver medal with a jump of 8.37m and was denied a gold medal by 1cm from America's Jeff Henderson.

His road to recovery has been inspiring having been banned for 18 months in 2012 when traces of methamphetamine (tik) were found in his system.

Since his Rio heroics, Manyonga has led with back-to-back solid performances at the IAAF Diamond League meetings and even broke his own SA and African record with a leap of 8.65m in Potchefstroom earlier this year.

Manyonga will be in action on the opening day of the World Championships on Friday (20:30 SA time).

5. Caster Semenya (800m, 1500m)

Semenya is a runaway favourite for the 800m, where she will seek to claim her third world title and add to her Olympic gold from Rio de Janeiro last year.

However, this time around Semenya will also be taking on the 1 500m for the first time at a major international meeting - she set a personal best of 4:01.19 in Durban last year.

She will also be participating in the only South African relay team - the women's 4x400m.

Semenya, whose success has been clouded by her gender controversy, will be looking to secure an elusive double gold in London.

This year, Semenya has already recorded the fastest time in the women's 800m in over a decade when she raced to 1:55.21 at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

Semenya will be on action on Friday in the women's 1 500m heats (20:35 SA time).

6. Wayde van Niekerk (200m, 400m)

Other than Bolt, Van Niekerk is the next best sprinting athlete to watch out for in London.

Van Niekerk is the only athlete to break 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m, 31 seconds for the 300m and 44 seconds for the 400m.

His Rio Olympic world record heroics saw the South African notoriously breaking Michael Johnson's 17-year record in the 400m with a time of 43.03.

Van Niekerk has been on fire this season, having run personal bests in the 100m (9.94) and 200m (19.84) in June, and setting a new world best time of 30.81 in the rarely-run 300m in Ostrava last month.

He will have the opportunity to emulate Johnson's feat of winning the 200m and 400m at the same World Championships.

He will line-up in his first race on Saturday in the men's 400m heats (11:45 SA time).

Images: Gallo/Getty

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