SA team set to face global indoor elite

Ruswahl Samaai (File)
Ruswahl Samaai (File)
Cape Town - The rookie seven-man South African national team is ready to give its best, after arriving in Portland, Oregon in good spirits for the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

While the four-day showpiece got underway on Thursday, the entire squad will only turn out in the second half of the event over the weekend.

"The vibe in the team is amazing," said Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai, who will compete in the long jump final on Sunday night (SA time).

"We all know each other by now because most of the guys have been travelling with each other for quite some time, and although we're a small team, we're not here to fill up the lanes. We are here to compete."

Despite making his World Indoor Championships debut, along with every other member of the team, the Long Jump star was confident of putting up a challenge for a place on the podium and ending South Africa's six-year medal drought at the indoor spectacle.

He warmed up for the international event with an impressive 8.18m leap at a Central Gauteng League Meeting in Germiston last month.

"Although it's going to be my first World Indoor Championships, I'm coming out here to give it my all from the first jump to my last," he said.

Sprinter Ofentse Mogawane, who formed part of the SA team that bagged the 4x400m silver medal at the 2011 global Outdoor Championships in Daegu, said the squad had recovered from a long flight and they were adjusting to the cold US winter.

The 34-year-old athlete will lead the men's relay squad in the heats on Saturday, backed by in-form speedster Thapelo Phora who clocked a personal best of 45.64 seconds in Tshwane early last week, 20-year-old athletes Jon Seeliger and Sonwabiso Skhosana and Shaun de Jager.

It will be the first time South Africa is represented in the relay event at the indoor showpiece.

"It's not easy to make a quick adjustment (to the nine-hour time difference), also taking into account the opposite season here, but we have to be focused," Mogawane said.

"It is cold here, but it's not too bad, and the mood in the whole camp is 100 percent up."

The SA team also includes hurdles specialist Antonio Alkana, who will compete in the first round of the 60m dash over the barriers in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The African Games champion displayed good form also last week, clocking 13.60 in the 110m hurdles in Tshwane, though he remains untested over the shorter 60m event.

"We wish the athletes well, and while they do not boast much experience indoors, they have all shown tremendous potential in outdoor competition," said Aleck Skhosana, the president of Athletics South Africa.

"We trust they will utilise this opportunity to gain valuable international experience and represent the country with pride."

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