Athletes sparkle in windy Potchefstroom

Hammer thrower Chris Harmse, Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and hurdler Ockert Cilliers sparkled at the Yellow Pages Series meet in Potchefstroom on Friday night.

Ghastly winds played havoc midway through the meet, leading to the women’s high jump and 100m hurdles being cancelled. Any hopes of fast times in the 200m, 400m and hurdles were dented as athletes had to charge through a strong headwind on the home straight.

Harmse took his first step towards the Beijing Olympics with a throw of 74m, the exact “B” standard qualifier for the quadrennial event.

“This qualifying throw achieved base mainly on my strength training, which has gone quite well.
Now I need to pay more attention to improving my throwing technique. At the Yellow Pages meet in Tshwane [March 7], I hope to throw much further and possibly close to the ‘A’ qualifying standard [77,5m],” said Harmse.

The women’s javelin lived up to the crowd’s expectation of high-quality performances. Commonwealth Games champion Sunette Viljoen (58,51m) carried the day. Her training partner and Africa champion Justine Robbeson (57,81m), Britain’s Goldie Sayers (56,69m) and World Youth Champion Tazmin Brits (53,8m) followed in that order.

“If it was not for the wind, at least three of us would have passed the 60m mark. This is my best performance in nearly two years. I am glad to have gotten over the injuries that kept me from realising my full potential last year,” said Viljoen.

There were other notable performances on the in-field as Janus Robberts heaved the shot put to a distance of 19,14m. Sixteen-year-old Marizette Badenhorst (50,3m) claimed victory in the women’s hammer throw.

Elsewhere, Yaw Fosu-Amoah was in a cheerful mood after leaping to a distance of 7,9m. “I have never started the season with a jump this far. It gives me hope that I am on course to bettering my personal best of 8,05m, which is also the ‘B’ standard qualifier,” said Fosu-Amoah.

Meanwhile, the vastly improved Isabella le Roux blew away the field to win the women’s 200m in a career best of 23,32 seconds. “I was pleasantly surprised to run so fast at such an early stage in the season. Training under a new coach is paying off as my previous best in 200m was 23,94,” she said.

Earlier, she had clocked 11,73 seconds in the 100m—a mere six-100th off her 100m career best. Estie Witstock (11,55 seconds) and Tsholofelo Thipe (11,55) clocked identical personal bests to finish ahead of All Africa Games silver medallists Nombulelo Mkenku (11,67).

Meanwhile, Ofentse Mogawane (46,49 seconds) signalled he had regained his 400m form after almost two years in the wilderness. He opened a huge lead in the first half of the race. When he hit the home straight, he was able to hold off a spirited challenge from Sidwell Miti (46,71) as well as hurdlers Louis van Zyl (46,79) and Alwyn Myburgh (47,13).

“It is great to be back at the top of my game. I finally got over the problem of endurance by training with professional boxers. I would go into the gym with them and have fun with punch bags. I hope to soon qualify for the Beijing Olympics,” said a delighted Mogawane.

Despite all the high-profile runners skipping the 400m hurdles in favour of the sprints, there was sufficient depth to ensure an impressive winning time. Making his comeback to the limelight, Ockert Cilliers covered the distance in 49,69 seconds.

“Now that I will not be relocating to The Netherlands, I might as well get on with the business of qualifying for the Olympics. The 400m hurdles is a tough race in South Africa and I want to make clear impression before the field of Beijing qualifiers gets rather crowded,” says Cilliers.—Sapa

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