Look out for Khotso & Co | SASCOC - SASCOC

Look out for Khotso & Co

Mark Etheridge

Three of South Africa’s medal hopes at next month’s IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Berlin are in action Tuesday night.

Leading the charge at the Atletissima Super Grand Prix in Lausanne will be African long jump record-holder Khotso Mokoena.

Mokoena leapt to his new continental mark of 8.50 metres in Madrid at the weekend and considering the form he’s in there’s no guarantee that the record will stand for long.

He’ll be joined by middle distance stalwart Johan Cronje and 400m hurdles star LJ van Zyl.

Mokoena, South Africa’s only medallist at the Beijing Olympics, faces a line-up packed with most of the world’s best jumpers, including the relatively unknown Aussie Fabrice Lapierre who beat Mokoena in Madrid.

American Dwight Phillips will start favourite after an 8.74m in Eugene, Oregon, a month ago. Six of the world’s 10 best jumpers this season will be in the mix with Frenchman Salim Sdiri, Morocco’s Yahya Berrabeh and Chris Tomlinson of Great Britain, all having gone further than 8.20m this year. But 8.20 is now small fry to 24-year-old Mokoena had already returned consecutive leaps of 8.33m before his African mark.

Considering the quality of the line-up, Ivan Pedroso’s meeting record of 8,56m set in 1995 is under serious threat..

Mokoena’s coach, Elna de Beer, hopes, however, that he doesn’t peak too soon with World Championships in still more than a month away. “I think he can break it,” De Beer told SuperSport on Monday. “I hope he saves his best for the World Championships, but he’s been so consistent this year.

“At previous competitions he’s been jumping 8.40m regularly but he has overstepped the board. He’s in good form, and I’m not saying he will break his record Tuesday, but I know he can.”

Back to the track though and Bloemfontein’s Cronje, who set a personal best 3:35.11 over 1,500m in Greece a month ago, is up against a field with four runners who have gone faster than him this year. The 27-year-old, who had to come home after his Greek run due to visa problems, will take confidence from his victory, also in Madrid at the weekend – beating former Olympic and World Championship bronze medalist Rui Silva into second place.

Van Zyl has dipped under 49sec twice in Europe recently his best being the 48.71 in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He then came back to Pretoria to train under Nico van Heerden’s guidance.

Van Zyl, who set his career best time of 48.05 in winning the 2006 Commonwealth Games title, also goes up against an impressive line-up that includes Jamaica’s Isa Phillips, who holds three of the world’s seven fastest times in 2009.

Van Heerden is “cautiously optimistic” about Van Zyl’s chances Tuesday. “His training has gone really well and his mindset is very strong. His form says he’ll definitely go under 49sec tonight and I’m also expecting better things in Rome on Friday and Athens next week.”

Mokoena, Cronje and Van Zyl have already booked themselves places in South Africa’s team for the World Championships, having set A standard qualifying times.

Gideon Sam
Gideon Sam

Our best wishes go with these athletes as they continue to show that they can render great performances. We have confidence in the work that the coaches are doing. Be strong!