SA athletes use Diamond Leagues to sharpen skills

Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena (pictured) will turn out in the men's long jump event in the Belgian capital. (Gallo)

Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena (pictured) will turn out in the men's long jump event in the Belgian capital. (Gallo)

Four of the five South African athletes competing in Brussels on Friday night will use the final leg of the Diamond League series to fine-tune their preparations for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Continental Cup. 

Zarck Visser and Khotso Mokoena will turn out in the men’s long jump event in the Belgian capital, ahead of the quadrennial continental team championships in Marrakech next week. 

Mokoena, who will compete in the triple jump discipline in Morocco, is lying fifth in the Diamond League season standings in the single-leap event, after winning the Stockholm leg last month, while Visser is in ninth place with two points. 

In a wide open race for the series podium, Mokoena can still bag the overall victory with a win in Brussels, while Visser also has an opportunity to close his campaign among the top three. 

Meanwhile, Sunette Viljoen will square off against a strong field of eight athletes in the women’s javelin throw. Katharina Molitor of Germany is the only woman competing at the event who has not thrown further than Viljoen’s 65.32m season’s best in Marrakech. 

Having taken third place at the Diamond League series opener in Doha in May, the African record holder hoped to sharpen up for the Continental Cup with another podium finish at the final leg. “I do not want to predict the result, but I still believe my best this season is yet to come,” Viljoen said. 

‘End the season on a high note’
One-lap hurdler Wenda Nel, who will also represent the continental team in Marrakech, faces a quality lineup in her specialist event. Nel’s personal best of 54.82 seconds, set at the World Challenge meeting in Marrakech in June, ranks her eighth of the nine women who will go into the blocks in Brussels. 

“It would be great to end the season on a high note with a fast time and I will do my best to perfect my race plan,” Nel said. “I am running against the world’s best and the lesson I’ve learned is to be confident within myself so that I can actually start to compete among them. 

“The biggest challenge after such a long season will be to stay mentally positive and focused on what worked.” 

Andre Olivier, who did not qualify for the Continental Cup as he did not compete at the African Championships, will line up in the men’s 1 000m race, in the absence of countryman Johan Cronje who withdrew after falling ill. 

“I ran a 1 000m when I was 16 on a grass track, but this will be my first one as a senior,” Olivier confirmed. “This will also be my last race of the season.” – Sapa

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