Hestrie jumps into final

2000-09-28 06:38

Sydney - South Africa's Hestrie Cloete floated into the Olympic high jump final with a flawless build-up to clearing 1,94 metres during her qualifying round at Stadium Australia on Thursday.

Cloete said afterwards that she was pleased with her technique in clearing 1,80m, 1,85m and 1,92m -- all with first-time efforts before her 1,94 first-jump which is an automatic qualifier.

"I was very comfortable out there," said Cloete.

"I've worked very hard on my technique for the last month and I'm now bearing the fruits of that.

"I'm making no medal predictions, but I will say that the girls are in for a big fight out there."

With the retirement of Bulgarian world record holder and Atlanta gold medallist Stefka Kostadinova the field is wide open for the final on Saturday night.

Cloete comes up against world champion Ukrainian Inga Babakova, the only competitor in the field with a personal best better than the South African's.

South Africa's reigning world youth champion and bronze medallist at the European Champs Gareth Blanckenberg blew his medal hopes when he slid from sixth place overall to 10th in the sailing event.

He managed middling finishes in his two Laser class races, 22nd and 20th, effectively ending his charge for the bronze medal.

Blanckenberg's Irish coach Trevor Millar said his charge had succumbed to pressure.

"I think today he was feeling the pressure," Millar conceded.

"Normally he handles pressure very well and that's what makes him a great potential... He's definitely a star in the future."

Ian Ainslie finished seventh in his Finn class event and is lying 18th overall with four of the 11 races remaining. Canoeist Alan van Coller earned fourth place in his K1 1000m semifinal, missing out by one spot the right to compete in the final. Wrestler Jannie du Toit was eliminated from the freestyle 76kg competition, losing both his bouts.

And Ernst van Dyk finished seventh in the men's wheelchair 1500m final.

There are now seven track and field athletes who have a chance of improving on the two bronze medals won by discus thrower Frantz Kruger and 400m hurdler Llewellyn Herbert.

Okkert Brits competes in the pole vault on Friday night when the men's 400m relay team will attempt to qualify for the finals on Saturday night. Cloete and 10 000m runner Elana Meyer will also be in action on Friday.

On Sunday Josia Thugwane will defend his Atlanta Olympic marathon title supported by Hendrik Ramaala and national champion Johannes Maremane. - Sapa