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Olympic ace in Pretoria

Former Olympic silver medallist James Beckford of Jamaica will compete in Friday’s Yellow Pages track and field meeting in Pretoria.

And while our own Olympics silver medallist Khotso Mokoena is not in action on Friday, Beckford will at least bring an international flavour to the competition as well as provide our world junior champion Luvo Manyonga with some inspiration.

Beckford, who turned 36 this year, won silver at the Atlanta Olympics back in 1996 with a jump of 8.29 metres, beaten by track and field legend Carl Lewis.

He’s also won two long jump silver medals at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1995 and again eight years later in Paris, France.

Manyonga was only three years old when Beckford started to make his appearance felt on the world circuit. Both went over 8m at the age of 19, but there the similarities end as Beckford has had a few more opportunities to make his name on the big stage.

This will be Beckford’s second visit to South Africa. He was first here back in 1995 when he competed in the All Africa Invitational in Johannesburg and won that competition with a leap of 8.27m.

As this is Beckford’s first competition of 2011, Manyonga has a great opportunity to notch another scalp. Beckford’s best leap of 2010 was a 7.93m and he hasn’t broken the 8m barrier since jumping 8.01 in June, 2008. Mokoena’s best effort of 2010 was a 8.23 while Manyonga hit the 8.19 mark.

ÔÇ£This is my first meeting of the year so I’m mainly looking to see where I am at this point, said Beckford. “I live and train in Orlando Florida but I stay in Germany when I’m competing in Europe. I’m really looking forward to coming to the sunshine because since I’ve been here in Germany for almost a month, it’s been freezing and snowing quite a bit.ÔÇØ

First competition or no, the wily ÔÇ£old campaignerÔÇØ is hardly likely to want to let a young ÔÇ£upstartÔÇØ such as Manyonga, take his glory, so a riveting competition awaits at the Yellow Pages Meeting in Pretoria.

Beckford will also be competing at the Yellow Pages meeting in Cape Town on 10 March, the same meeting that Moekoena is expected to start his outdoor season.


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