More gold for SA team at African champs

South African athletes continued to dominate the 16th African Athletics Championships on another windy day in Addis Ababa on Saturday. Three more gold medals by Chris Harmse, Hennie Kotze and Sunette Viljoen, in the hammer throw, 110m hurdles and javelin respectively, brought the team’s golden haul to nine. South Africa ended the penultimate day with a tally of 17 medals.

A proud 34-year-old Harmse won his fifth consecutive African title since 1998 with a new championship record of 77,72m and narrowly failed to achieve the Olympic qualifying distance of 78,50m.

“The competition was very special for me. The hammer event got a special position on the timetable and the encouragement of the spectators was fantastic. It was also my best of the year,” Harmse told reporters.

The 110m metres hurdles was only a final and Hennie Kotze (24) did very well to win his first major gold medal with a time of 13,95.

Two Nigerians athletes occupied second and third places. Samuel Okon won the silver in 14,08 with Nurudeen Salim third in 14,27 while Janko Kotze finished a close fourth in 14,31.

Sunette Viljoen, former African record holder, won the javelin by more than three metres after a winning effort measuring 55,17m. She also won the African gold in 2004. Her teammate and holder of the African record, Justine Robbeson, did not take part after suffering a serious ankle injury during a training session on Thursday.

Thuso Mpuang, a 24-year-old Free State University sprinter who recently surprised by winning the SA Students’ 200m title with an Olympic qualifying mark of 20,57., continued his excellent form on Saturday when he won both his races and recorded the fastest time in the semifinals of 20,97. He should stand a very good chance of winning one of the three medals in Sunday’s final. A year ago he was a

virtual unknown in SA athletics.

Similar to conditions at the SA Championships at Stellenbosch in March, the athletes encountered winds of gale force and fast times were almost non-existent. In the men’s three semifinal races all the readings measured more than 3,6m per second from the front against the athletes.

Obinna Meti of Nigeria, who ran his morning heat in 20,87, suffered most in the semifinals when he encountered a wind of 5,5m against him. It restricted him to a time of 21,24. An excellent final can be anticipated when all the runners will be in the same race.

The other SA sprinters, Corne du Plessis (fourth in his semifinal in 21,24) and Sergio Mullins (22,05 in the morning heats) were eliminated.

Isabel le Roux and Geraldine Pillay, the two women sprinters in the 200m, seemed quite comfortable and both advanced to Sunday’s final after becoming automatic qualifiers with second places in their races.

Le Roux, who missed the Olympic entry time by a mere 0,03 in March, will have to do her best in the all important final after she found conditions almost impossible for a fast time in her two races. She had to contend with a wind strength of 2,9m against in both races. She won her heat in the morning round in 23,69 and followed it with a second place in the semi’s, clocking 23,52. The latter was won by

Damola Osayami (Nigeria) in 23,47.

Pillay, who won the African title in 2004, recorded times of 24,20 (heat) and 23,65 (semi) with the wind-readings just below 2m in both races.

The fastest time of the day was set by Kadiatou Camara of Mali who set a new national record of 22,87.

The two 1 500m heats were quite pedestrian and the sole South African, Juan van Deventer, advanced to the final with his time of 3:56,56. Johan Cronje, a regular SA representative, did not travel to Ethiopia because of a stress fracture.

Willem Coertzen, silver medalist in the decathlon, also added a bronze medal when a clearance of 4m was sufficient to end on the rostrum.

Triple jumper Tumelo Thagane finished sixth in his event with a jump of 15,86m.

The SA women’s 4 x 400m relay team withdrew from the heats but the men’s team was the fastest qualifier with an impressive 3:05,57. The team comprised Pieter Smith, Ofentse Mogawane, Ockert Cilliers and LJ van Zyl.

The Phalula twins disappointed in the heats of the 800m when both failed to advance to the final. National champion Lebogang (2:13,03) finished fourth in her heat while Lebo (2:12,14) ran slightly faster in fifth place. Maria Mutola, Mozambique’s superstar, and Agnes Samaria of Namibia, who does most of her training under coach JP van der Merwe in Johannesburg, both won their heats.

The championships end on Sunday when the remaining 15 finals will be contested. - Sapa

 

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