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SA stars struggle

It was a night of losses in Lausanne for South African athletes in action at the Athletissima Diamond League track and field meeting in Switzerland on Thursday.

Both our reigning world 800-metre champions, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Caster Semenya failed to find form and it didn’t go much better for 400m hurdler Cornel Fredericks, writes Mark Etheridge.

First in action was Mulaudzi and he looked a pale shadow of the man who blew the world’s best away to win the world title in Berlin two years ago. He has a season’s best of 1:45.50 this season but ended up at the tail of the field, coming home eighth in 1min 48.44sec as a resurgent world record-holder David Rudisha toyed with the field.

After a first lap of 49.48sec, Rudisha, who won this event at last year’s meeting as well as back in 2007, burst to the front ahead of the final bend and went on to win in 1:44.15.

Mulaudzi’s fellow 800m world champion, was trying out over the 1500m on this occasion as she plans to run the 800/1500m double at the 2012 London Olympics.

But she was on the back foot and at the back of the pack from the gun and looked to be struggling throughout. American Morgan Uceny was an impressive winner in 4:05.52 but Semenya was anything but impressive as she trailed in last in 4:16.36.

With the world’s leading light in the 400m hurdles, LJ van Zyl preferring to train hard rather than race hard at this stage of a lengthy season, SA representation fell to Stellenbosch based Cornel Fredericks.

And he looked a million dollars… until he hit the final straight. He had a comfortable lead at the halfway mark but his legs turned to lead as he came off the bend and he slowed to seventh in a sluggish 51.12. That after going into the race with a 48.14 season’s best to his name. Race winner was Britain’s David Greene, the 2010 European 400m hurdles champion winning in 48.41sec against a field that included world champion Kerron Clement and runner-up Javier Culson.

The only other South African in action was never harbouring any ambitions of medalling. Peter van der Westhuizen was on pace-making duties in the 5000m and he did a great job, helping Vincent Chepkok smash the meeting record of Kenyan countryman Sammy Kipketer. Chepkok clocked a fine 12:59.13.