ASA hails SA Champs an 'absolute success'

Luvo Manyonga (Gallo Images)
Luvo Manyonga (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The absolute success of the Athletics South Africa (ASA) track and field and combined events championships has made an unmistaken statement that South African athletics is back, focused and hungry to take on the world.

Driven by the dedication of elite athletes, the SA Championship drew a full house crowd at the Kenneth McArthur Athletics Stadium in Potchefstroom in an explosive two-day meeting held last weekend.

"The stature of ASA is firmly back," said a satisfied Aleck Skhosana, the President of Athletics South Africa.

"All our six Olympic finalists from Rio 2016 gave incredible performances and we must not be ashamed to pat ourselves on the back as an athletics family for a job well done."

Long jump Olympic silver medallist Luvo Manyonga was the most successful story of the Championship, breaking his African record for the second time this season by three centimetres and by consequence setting the new SA record with a massive leap of 8.65m leap to earn the gold medal through his very first attempt.

Top performances included the quality displays of Olympic finalist Akani Simbine on the opening day where he outclassed a quality line-up which fans could only dream of before, to reclaim the SA 100m title he won in Stellenbosch two years ago.

Simbine - who clocked 9.94 in the semis - crossed the line in 9.95 in the final, followed by Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk (10.04) and Thando Roto (10.04) a member of the exclusive South African sub-10 club, who had stopped the clock at 9.95 a few weeks ago making it the second fastest SA time.

Simbine ran his fifth sub-10 of the season and the 12th of his career.

That field also included World Championships 200m silver medalist Anaso Jobodwana, national junior 100m record holder Gift Leotlela, former national 100m record holder Henricho Bruintjies, 110m hurdles specialist Antonio Alkana and former 100m champion Simon Magakwe who was the first South African sprinter to run 100m in less than 10 seconds in 9.98.

Magakwe couldn't finish his race dropping out about 20 metres into the final because of injury.

Van Niekerk cemented his intentions on a World Champs double when he won the 200m on Saturday in 19.90, crossing the line 0.25 ahead of Simbine to revenge his defeat in the 100m and missing Jobodwana's national record by 0.03.

The field included SA 200m junior record holder Clarence Munyai.

Carina Horn came close to the SA record of 11.06 when she clocked 11.10 in the semi-finals, but pulled out of the women's 100m final due to illness, allowing defending champion Alyssa Conley to retain her title in 11.41.

Rio Olympic 800m gold medalist Caster Semenya Caster Semenya successfully defended her SA 400m (51.60), and 800m (2:01.03) titles, winning both finals less than two hours apart.

In the women's 100m Hurdles, Rikenette Steenkamp narrowly missed out on breaking the 13-second barrier by setting a PB of 13.02.

Sunette Viljoen continued to show her worth as a World Champs medal prospect when she threw 63.49m the javelin as she continues her confident build-up towards beating the 72.28m world record.

Thabang Mosiako ran for dear life to win the men's 5 000m in 14:03.84 to cause a notable upset of the opening day when he flew past Olympic Games finalist Elroy Gelant who took silver, in a strong field which included bronze medallist Stephen Mokoka.

"These are indeed exciting times for South African athletics and the current indication is that our prospects are looking bright in London when we take on the World Champs in August," said Skhosana.

"What made us happiest is the positive attitude and maturity of athletes in the way they expressed pride of the national flag and understanding that they are the primary drivers of the country's athletics.

"Therefore, it makes us proud that our elite athletes are now taking the initiative to drive the message that South Africa deserves to be amongst the top in the world if not at the very top and are committing to lead by improving current performances.

"The hard work that was put all around also showed that the athletics family is united, ambitious and focussed. The whole world is sitting up and taking notice of South Africa now.

"On behalf of the Board of ASA, I thank athletes, coaches, relevant managers, the University of Potchefstroom, the Lottery Board, Central North West Athletics, the local organising committee, all athletics officials and members of the media for working together to make this the success it was."

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