Golden hurdles face-off | SASCOC - SASCOC

Golden hurdles face-off

By Mark Etheridge

Our track and field big guns are in action in Thursday night’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Rome.

Of them four have already all but booked their places for the Olympics in London later this year and are fine-tuning their preparations while for others the stress of striving to seal qualification times and distances grows by the day.

Possibly the most awaited race for South African interest will be the men’s 400m hurdles where both LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks are in action

While Van Zyl ended the year as the quickest one-lap hurdler in the world, this is 2012 but for now Fredericks flies the flag with his 48.91sec year’s best.

Van Zyl has done just enough to secure his qualification and has a 49.42 best in 2012 but he’s also had two below par races to reflect on, at nationals in Port Elizabeth where he was a pedestrian second and at the Shanghai leg of the Diamond League series where he was fifth and failed to break 50sec. But he said recently that his troublesome knee and calf are things of the past and he’s one race away from getting back on song.

Certainly the presence of both our top hurdlers in the same race should ensure that bragging rights are fought out between the national champion and 2011 World Championships bronze medallist. Fastest in the field for Thursday is Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson with a 48.00 flat while world champion David Green and Bershawn Jackson have both run 48.20.

One South African who will be in the limelight, like it or not, will be our 100m sprint champion SImon Magakwe. That’s because he’ll have the imposing figure of sprint legend Usain Bolt to his left or right.

He certainly looks to have felt the pressure in Ostrava last week when he false-started and was disqualified, but he’s sure to have learnt from that and hopefully feed off Bolt’s hype.

His place on Team South Africa is all but assured after having qualified on six occasions and equalled the SA record of 10.06 in the process. Up ahead of him Bolt and Asafa Powell will be slugging it out with Bolt having a 9.82 best this season and Powell a 9.88 while Magakwe will be looking to run under the 10.18 internationally. One other athlete in the field, Lerone Clarke (9.99) has gone under 10sec this year.

Staying on track and 2009 world champion and last year’s silver medallist, Caster Semenya’s season continues in the 800m. With a season’s best of 1:59.58, seven of the 12-strong field are quicker than her and all indications are that it’s going to be some race at the Olympics later this year.

Quickest in the field and in the year is Mariya Savinova with her 1:55.87, almost a second quicker than Kenyan Pamela Jelimo (1:56.94).

Ruben Ramolefi is also yet to run a qualifier. He needs to run an 8:23.10 or quicker in the 3000m steeplechase. To date he has an 8:24.71 to his name. Quickest in the field is Ezekiel Kemboi with his 7:55.76.

To the field events and Commonwealth champion Sunette Viljoen has her place guaranteed in London. She’s thrown a 61.84m this year, and five of the line up in the javelin have better efforts than her. Russia’s Mariya Abakumova’s 66.86 is the benchmark thus far this year.

Our sole silver medallist at the Beijing Olympics, Khotso Mokoena still needs an international qualifier in the long jump. He’s done the job locally with the 8.29m he jumped in Pretoria but still needs an 8.20m or better on international soil. His 8.50m personal best is the best of the line-up assembled.