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Athletes’ learning curve
- Updated: September 20, 2011
Our track and field team surprised many at the DecaNation competition at the Parc de Sports, Charles Ehrmann in Nice, France on Sunday, pushing teams from Spain and China before finishing seventh overall.
In the end Spain finished half a point and China a mere two points ahead of a youthful South African team.
The annual competition, in its seventh year, pits eight countries against each other, with 10 men and 10 women participating in one event per athlete. South Africa received an invitation at a late stage and had to scramble to get travel arrangements made and availability of athletes confirmed, with many athletes having competed at World Championships, All Africa Games and other international events.
With the events chosen by the organisers, they did not necessarily suit South Africa’s strengths. Cold and windy conditions did not aid good performances, but then the DecaNation is about head-to-head competition and not world ranking performances.
The competition started well, with Sonya van der Merwe finishing third in the first track race of the day, the women’s 400 metro. After running in the 200m at the African Junior Championships and the World Student Championships, Van der Merwe returned to the 400m, to only be beaten by Anasta Kapachinskaya (Russia) and Muriel Hurtis-Houairi (France).
At the same time, in the field, JF Burger struggled in the pole vault, not being able to convert to borrowed poles and failing to record a height. Marcoleen Pretorius, although clearing the starting height, did not progress and finished in 8th position. Johan Kruger finished seventh in the Hammer Throw.
Back on the track, Tlou Seloba ran a creditable fourth place in a close tactical 800m race. This was followed by Mapaseka Makhanya finishing fifth in the 1500m and Teboho Masehla also fifth in the 3000m steeplechase.
Meanwhile, Luzaan Jordaan, who had participated in the final of the shot put at the World Youth Championships in July, did well to take seventh place in her first senior competition. Her youth compatriot, Phillipa van der Merwe, equalled her performance in the 100m. Van der Merwe was up against a strong field which included legendary French sprinter Christine Arron.
The two South African hurdlers scored valuable points for their team when Claudia Viljoen came sixth in the 100m hurdles and Lehaan Fourie was third in the 110m hurdles. At the same time, Janice Josephs was fifth in the long jump.
Willie de Beer, fresh from his silver medal in the 4 x 400m relay at the World Championships, struggled down the home straight of the 400m fading from third spot coming off the bend to finish in fourth place. Mandie Brandt also found the going tough at the end of the 800m fading into sixth place after a strong first lap.
Back in the field events, Nanette Stapelberg, competing against the world champion Tatiana Lysenko, found the level of competition a lot stiffer than in South Africa, ending in seventh position. Orazio Cremona was not on form and finished a disappointing sixth place in the Shot Put, nearly three metros short of what he usually puts. World Championships finalist and reigning World Junior Champion Luvo Manyonga did not disappoint his team when he took second place in the long jump. On Thursday he had won the long jump title at the All Africa Games in Maputo with a leap of 8.02m
In the middle distance events Dean Brummer (steeplechase) and Elroy Gelant (1500m) both struggled to match the pace when their opponents speeded up in the later stages of their races. Brummer ended seventh and Gelant sixth.
The final event of the day pitched SA Junior champion Gideon Trotter against former Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin and French sensation Christophe Lemaitre. The race was won by Lemaitre from Gatlin. In a bizarre twist, the Spanish athlete fell at the start, but got up to jog across the line. By finishing the race, even in 41.81 seconds, he managed to score a point for 8th place. That point aided his team to beat the South African team for the sixth spot overall.
The spirit shown by the Spanish runner summed up the spirit of the competition, which mixed camaraderie with national pride. The South African team, competing in an international for the first time in over a decade, also acquitted themselves well. With a mix of youth, junior and more experienced athletes, the team were in contention for fifth place right until the end.
Although they were described by one South African journalist as lambs being led to the slaughter, they showed that they could mix it with the best and did not disgrace themselves by any measure. In fact, they scored double the points of the English team.
The overall winners were the United States on 133.5 points, with Russia second and Germany third.
Final points standings: 1┬á USA 133,5; 2┬á Russia 129; 3┬á Germany 115; 4┬á France 109; 5┬á China 68; 6┬á Spain 66.5; 7┬á South Africa┬á 66; 8┬á England┬á 33.
South African results
100m: Gideon Trotter seventh┬á 10.82
400m: Willie de Beer fourth┬á 46.69
800m: Tlou Seloba fourth┬á 1:52.50
1500m: Elroy Gelant fifth 4:00.21
3000mSC: Dean Brummer seventh 8:48.34
110mHurdles: Lehann Fourie┬á third 13.71
Long Jump: Luvo Manyonga second 7.99m
Pole Vault: JF Burger NH
Shot Put: Orazio Cremona sixth 16.91m
Hammer Throw: Johan Kruger seventh 60.33m
100m: Phillipa van der Merwe seventh┬á 12.21
400m:┬á Sonja van der Merwe third 54.82
800m: Mandi Brandt sixth 2:10.20
1500m: Mapaseka Makhanya fifth 4:29.25
3000mSC: Teboho Masehla fifth 10:06, 47
100mHurdles:┬á Claudia Viljoen┬á sixth 14.06
Long Jump:┬á Janice Josephs fifth 6.34m
High Jump: Marcoleen Pretorius eighth 1.65m
Shot Put: Luzaan Jordaan seventh 13.69m
Hammer Throw: Nanette Stapelberg seventh 50.53m