ASA Championships end with fireworks as stars shine

Cape Town - A handful of athletes delivered world-class performances on Saturday, bringing the 2019 ASA Senior Championships to a thrilling close at Germiston Athletics Stadium.

Defending champion Lindsay Hanekom built on his fine form, taking another step forward on the comeback trail after recovering from injuries to win the men's 400m hurdles final in 48.81 seconds. He broke the 49-second barrier for the first time, dragging two other men under the barrier, with world junior champion Sokwakhana Zazini taking second place in 49.33 and experienced athlete Cornel Fredericks grabbing third spot in 49.87.

"I wanted to come out here and run a Personal Best (PB) because I've been trying to run sub-49 for three years," Hanekom said.

“But I'm happy, training is going well and I just did what I could today."

Also producing a career breakthrough, Orazio Cremona won the men's shot put final with a monstrous 21.51m heave, obliterating his PB of 21.12m, while teenager Kayle Blignaut was also in impressive form as he took the silver medal with a 20.03m effort.

Back on the track, in the men's 200m final, Akani Simbine scorched across the line in 20.27 to secure a commanding victory. Simbine has been focusing on the longer sprints this early in the season to build his speed endurance, although the focus at the IAAF World Championships in Doha will be the 100m.

"My training sessions are going well and we know I'm in the right place at the moment," Simbine said. He next heads to Yokohama for the World Relay Championships on May 12-13. Asked about his preparations, Simbine was optimistic. “Preparations are going well.” And what about the sequence of runners in the relay? “I finish,” said a chuckling Simbine.

In a hard-fought battle in the men's long jump, world champion Luvo Manyonga won gold, landing at 8.35m. He finished ahead of Ruswahl Samaai (8.21m) and Zarck Visser (8.01m). Manyonga hit the 8.35m in the third round.

"This is my first competition of the year, so I'm happy with where I am at the moment," Manyonga said.

And javelin throw queen Sunette Viljoen clinched her 13th South African title with a winning heave of 57.23m. 

"I think my last throw would have been a good one, but I just slipped as I came in to lock, but I'm very happy to win again and to walk away with another national title."

Among other highlights, youth athlete Prudence Sekgodiso edged Gena Lofstrand on the line to win the women's 800m title in 2:05.06, while junior star Zeney van der Walt pipped experienced campaigner Wenda Nel to win her maiden national senior 400m hurdles title in 55.93.

In the relay finals, South African invitation teams took the men's and women's 4x100m races in 39.35 and 44.92 respectively, while Athletics Gauteng North quartets won the men's and women's 4x400m hurdles titles in 3:04.26 and 3:36.41.

Akani Simbine (Tobias Ginsberg)

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