Mixed results for Team SA at Athletics Championships

The first two days of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics brought mixed fortunes for the South African team.

The classiest performance so far came from Ruben Ramolefi who lived up to his pre-Championships form by qualifying for the final of the 3000m steeplechase.

Ramolefi, who controlled his heat, was satisfied with third place in 8:18,24 and showed that he was going to take the battle to his opponents in the final, and could surprise the medal contenders.

LJ van Zyl had a disappointing run in the semifinals of the 400m hurdles and failed to qualify for the finals. Van Zyl, the fastest man in the world this year in the event and one of the team’s medal hopefuls, progressed to the semifinals when he finished second in his heat in a time of 49,48 seconds.

In the semifinal, however, Van Zyl started to struggle on the last bend and lost contact with his opponents. He eventually finished sixth in 48, 80.

On Sunday morning 18-year old Caster Semenya had her first taste of real international competition in her heat of the 800m for women, and what a baptism it was.

Images of the Zola Budd/Mary Decker incident at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics resurfaced when Kenyan favourite Janeth Jepkosgei, who was leading at that stage, stumbled and fell and nearly took Semenya with her.

The youngster, however, did well to recover and won the heat in 2:02,51. She had the eighth best time overall after the first round heats.

”I wanted to start fast to get into the inside lane and for me the first round went well,” Semenya said.

”I do not know what happened to the Kenyan athlete as I suddenly saw that she fell and I had to jump over her. I got spiked and twisted my ankle, and after I have seen the physio I will know whether it will hinder my further progress.”

The Kenyan team submitted an appeal for the reinstatement of Jepkosgei and although the Jury of Appeal ruled in their favour and decided that Semenya was responsible for the fall, they did not disqualify the South African.

She and Jepkosgei have been drawn in the same heat for the semifinals of the event on Monday night.

Peter van der Westhuizen, with an impressive performance of aggressive running, qualified for the semifinals of the 1 500m with a time of 3:42,33 in fifth place.

His team-mate Johan Cronje never took the battle to his opponents and ran for most of the race, which was run at a pedestrian pace, in an outside lane. The traditional Cronje kick was also lacking and he drifted home in ninth place in 3:46,45 to be eliminated.

Van der Westhuizen goes in the 1 500m semifinals on Monday evening.

Sunette Viljoen and Chris Harmse were eliminated in the qualifying rounds of the javelin for women and hammer throw for men respectively.

Viljoen, who is ranked in the top five in the world, struggled in the qualifying round and after a no throw with her first attempt produced throws of 56,83m and 49,45m — well short of the qualifying mark of 62 metres.

Harmse was devastated after three no throws knocked him out of the hammer throw in the qualifying rounds of the event. ”I am a disappointed man, especially after all that ASA did for me to make it possible to be here. They assisted me a lot and I hope I will have one more chance to repay them,” said Harmse.

Simon Magakwe made his debut on the international scene with a third place in his first round 100m heat in 10,54 seconds but gave up the challenge towards the end of his second round heat to finish sixth in 10,71. After the race he limped off the track with an injury.

On Tuesday Thuso Mpuang will start in the heats of the 200m and Pieter Smith in the heats of the 400m. — Sapa

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