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Athletes join the party

By Mark Etheridge
in Maputo

If there was any doubt that Team South Africa would leave the 10th All Africa Games here anywhere but on top of the medals table it was all but wiped out on Thursday.

The athletes had their best day of the Games as the track and field code came to completion, taking seven medals in a fine evening’s action as the official tally jumped to 144 (62 gold, 47 silver and 35 bronze).

Three of Thursday’s athletics medals were gold, world junior long jump champion Luvo Manyonga leading the way with victory in the long jump (8.02 metres) and our para-athletes Michael Lourens and Fanie van der Merwe also got gold in the shot put (F57 code) and 200m (T37).

Van der Merwe’s 23.11sec is also an unofficial world best for the 25-year-old from Stellenbosch as we wait to see if this event was an IPC sanctioned championship. Lourens’ exact distance is yet to be certified as officials weren’t entirely sure as to the shot weight but he threw just over 13 metres.

Then there were silvers for Wenda Theron (400m hurdles, 57.13sec), Veronica Abrahamse┬á (shot put, 15.89m) and Bernard Crous (men’s javelin, 72.68m) and bronze for Sonia Smuts also in the women’s shot (15.29 and a personal best).

Apart from the athletics chess came to the party with at least two medals (silver and bronze) in the men’s and women’s team category and possibly others to be ratified while taekwondo’s Yu-Tai Wu won bronze in the men’s 58kg category.

If that wasn’t enough, Chanel Simmonds is into the final of the women’s singles in the tennis competition where she’ll take on Tunisia’s Once Jeboer in Friday’s final. Simmonds is in a race against time though after having been struck down by a nasty stomach bug during the team doubles competition late on Thursday.

The doubles combo of herself and Natasha Fourouclas lost in the semi-finals but won a bronze medal for reaching that stage.

So Team South Africa’s medal tally now stands at 144 with tennis’ doubles medal not included until their competition is completed!

Speaking after his long jump win, Manyonga said he’s now ready to step up to the biggest stage, next year’s Olympics in London. “I came fifth at world champs in Daegu earlier this month, now I’ve won All Africa Games gold so I’m confident of holding my own at the highest level. The wind was very tricky today, 4.9m/per second into us at one stage, but I just kept up my speed.

It’s hard to believe that this youngster is still only 20 years old. Despite heading off for treatment to a sore left ankle his parting shot was: “I don’t compete to lose any competition so it’s great to leave with gold.”

Van der Merwe led the T37 200m from start to finish. “I felt very strong all the way and it was great to feel very strong in the last 50m as well. My previous best was a 23.19 in Dubai last year so let’s hope this world best time is recognised,” said the 25-year-old sport scientist.

As for Theron, she reflected on a good year. “I set a personal best of 56.13 and reached the semi-finals at world championships and now I’ve got a silver at All Africa Games, my first Games,” said the 23-year-old final year Tukkies student (her degree is in the dietician field).

“Tonight was very windy but my strength is the first 200m so I gave it my best into the headwind, then I hit the eighth hurdle and that set me back and I got my foot pattern for the last hurdle which cost me the race but I’ve still had a good season to look back on.” Theron led into the straight but was powerless to stop Nigeria’s Ajoke Odumoso going on to win in 56.26.

If Manyonga and Theron are All Africa Games rookies then look no further than Abrahamse for the other end of the spectrum. At 31 years of age, these are her fifth All Africa Games… she was 15 when she took part in her first Games in Harare, Zimbabwe.

“This is my first silver medal at All Africa Games,” grinned the businesswoman from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. It doesn’t get any easier as time goes on and I’ve been battling with my Achilles tendon but still, it’s good to compete.” Her personal best stands at 15.89.

The evening’s third silver went to Bernard Crous. Like most of our javelin throwers he hails from Potchefstroom. “The wind wasn’t great but I’m still very proud to have won silver at All Africa, said the 22-year-old who must be one of the smaller-framed throwers in his trade. “Now I must head back to my studies, that’s also very important to me, and I’m studying a sports diplomat at Potch.”

Friday sees the Games all but winding up. The team attend a function at the SA Consulate in the city while our women’s soccer team face Algeria in the play-off for third-fourth place and the Games will end on Saturday when our men’s side battle it out for gold against Ghana.

The closing ceremony will take place at the Estadio Nacional on Sunday evening.


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