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Sunette reaches final and says, ‘Now I want 70m’

By Gary Lemke in London

Commonwealth Games champion Sunette Viljoen brought her scintillating 2012 form to London and showed why she’s been widely tipped to bring home a medal for South Africa when reaching the final with her first throw at the Olympic stadium on Tuesday.

Viljoen, competing in Group B in the qualifying round, launched the javelin 65.92m, raised her right arm into the air and walked off to put on her tracksuit, having made a real statement of intent. The automatic qualifying distance was 62m.

“I’m really feeling good and I’m very happy. My aim was always to make the Olympic final and take things from there,” a delighted Viljoen said. “The support I’ve had from South Africa, both here and back at home, makes me so determined to make people proud in the final [on Thursday night].

“There is a long process involved when it comes to javelin throwing, but to have that one throw and feel it come out well is really pleasing. My parents are here and I’ve sat in the stands to soak up the atmosphere. It’s an unbelievable crowd and I think with them making so much noise it will inspire me even more. I’m hoping I can get a 70-metre throw here in London.”

Dare we say it, but she threw 69.35m in New York in June, which is the best distance of the year. And you’d have to think that if she threw 70m in the final, it would be enough to blow everyone away.

Earlier, Lehann Fourie was competing in his first Olympics and at the age of 25 he is determined to make the most of the opportunity.

The 110m hurdler found himself up in the same heat as the Olympic champion Damon Robles, but rose to the occasion with a season’s best 13.44 that qualified him for Wednesday night’s semi-finals at the Olympic stadium.

ÔÇ£I knew I’d have to run fast to qualify, but I can also go quicker and I hope to do so in the semis. I had a good start but then I hit the fifth or sixth hurdle. But I kept my composure and ran right through to the end,ÔÇØ he said.

And what did it feel like having Robles in the same heat? ÔÇ£I’ve run against him a┬á few times but ja … as I said, I had a good start and then after hurdles three, four, I saw him on the right [going past me] and maybe I hit a hurdle. But you’ve got to keep focusing, keep looking ahead and concentrating on your own race,ÔÇØ he said with a smile.

The final heat was a hot one packed with star names but it looked like a demolition derby as only five athletes finished. Casualties included the Chinese hurdler who was Olympc champion in 2004 and was making his Games return after walking out of Beijing injured.

On Tuesday, willed on by millions of supporters at home, he collided with the first hurdle and fell heavily. He limped out and then hopped on one leg all the way back to the chute near the finish, where he was helped off in a wheelchair.

Anaso Jobodwana was a late inclusion into the Olympic squad and he impressed in the 200m heats, reaching the semi-finals. He finished second behind the Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, looking around in the straight and crossing the line in 20.46.

He competed in the heat after Usain Bolt, who sauntered over the line in 20.39, but reckoned it didn’t affect him. “Of course I heard the noise but I came here to reach the semi-finals and I did that. There’s nothing I can do about Bolt or anyone else, I can only run my own race,” Jobodwana added.

Jobodwana, based in the United States, only turned 20 just over a week ago. He doesn’t have the physical attributes of some of the premier sprinters in the world, but he has the attitude and the talent to go far. This won’t be the last time we see him on the Olympic stage.

In action later on Tuesday was ┬áAndre Olivier in the men’s semi-finals, this evening.


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