A good day for South Africa in Athens
South African men’s rowing pair of Donovan Cech and Ramon di Clemente added a bronze medal to the three earned in swimming, in an exciting final won by the Australians.
Starting in fifth position, the South Africans chased down an over-hasty German pairing and then the Serbian squad whom they caught after 1 200m. Cech and Di Clemente not only held a belted charge from New Zealand but were closing on the Croatians, but the finish line arrived too soon to convert the bronze into silver.
“After the first 600m I knew we would win a medal,” said an elated but exhausted Cech.
The pair had rowed a tactical race, holding back from the excitement of the early start, but leaving enough to post the fastest final 500m.
“We had some back niggles in the last couple of days, but [are] over the moon about this. Now it’s time to party,” celebrated Di Clemente.
Discus throwers through to final
Down at the Olympic stadium, discus thrower Frantz Kruger added his congratulations when he heard the news after having gone through to the final from his B group.
Kruger also started slow with a first effort reaching out to 60,91m, well off his capabilities and the 64,5m automatic qualifying distance.
His second throw extended this to 62,32, which was good enough for a 10th ranking and to put him in the final.
“I was a bit flat but I’m just happy that I am in the final. The purpose of this is just to get into the final where we will start from scratch then.
“There were a few surprises and a few guys that I thought would be in the final that are not, but just happy to be there. It’s a bit warm but conditions are perfect,” said Kruger.
In group A, Hannes Hopley had caused something of an upset, launching his third throw to 63,89m, the third best in the group and fifth-ranked overall. This means that both South Africans will compete in the final.
“It’s great—I see a bright future for him from now on. I think we motivate each other and I’m happy that we will fight the fight together,” said Kruger.
Saturday proved to be a better morning at the stadium, following Friday’s disappointment of seeing Jacques Freitag (high jump), Marcus le Grange (400m) and Elizna Naude (discus) all fail to make it to the next round.
In addition to Kruger and Hopley, Estie Wittstock came fourth in the third-fastest 400m heat of the day to post a time of 51,89 seconds. Wittstock had been first out of the blocks, with the fast-driving Donna Fraser two lanes outside her.
As they broke from the final bend it became clear that more work had to be done to catch Grenada’s Hazel-Ann Regis, but the line came too soon, leaving Wittstock some anxious minutes to see if she would take one of the fastest loser berths.
Wittstock continues through to a three-heat semifinal with a 22nd-place ranking out of the six heat preliminaries.
Surita Febbraio was not as fortunate, earlier in the morning, in the 400m hurdle heats. The 30-year-old South African failed to get close to her season best in the slowest heat, which was won by Australian Jana Pittman in 54,83 seconds, with Febbraio sixth in 56,49. The final qualifying place went in 55,22, which is 0,1 seconds slower than the South African’s season best.
Janice Josephs continues her two-day campaign in the women’s heptathlon following an overnight break that saw her on 3 613 points in 19th place.
Josephs placed sixth in her group in the long jump where she broke the sand at 6,21m on her first and best attempt.
Although under her personal best of 6,41m, it added some valuable points and moved her up to 14th position after the five events. The javelin and 800m were still to come in the afternoon session.
Josephs is the first South African to compete in the Olympic heptathlon and moved to the event after being a South African champion in both sprint distances.—Sapa