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Olympic stars set for SA Athletics Championships

Many an Olympic athlete will grace Stellenbosch’s Coetzenburg stadium for the two-day national track and field championships on Friday and Saturday.

Some of the big names in South African athletics will compete including a number of SA record holders and defending champions, but new and upcoming talent will be looking to make their mark this weekend.

Some familiar faces include combined SA 100-m record holder Simon Magakwe (a man who won the national title at the same venue four years ago after arriving at the stadium with his shoes in a plastic shopping bag), 400m hurdles SA record holder and 2012 London Olympian LJ van Zyl and there’s even a surprise with the SA record holder in the high jump, Jacques Freitag.

One Olympian who won’t be there is 110m hurdles finalist, Lehann Fourie. Based back in the United States, he told Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge: “I won’t be able to come to SA for the championships. I picked up a small hamstring injury a few weeks ago. I am already back at training, and training is going well, but I’m not able to race yet.

“I figured I would play it safe and keep training in order to get in shape for the season so I can run the standard for world champs. It is really unfortunate, but the season is still fairly long so its better to be ready when times are getting faster.

In the 400m hurdles, Cornel Fredericks defend his title from last year, there’s multiple SA champion Chris Harmse in the hammer throw and athletes such as 2008 Olympian Juan van Deventer and multiple SA 1500m champion Johan Cronje competing in various events from 800m to 5000m.

The sprints see Magakwe lining up in both 100m and 200m events with other regulars amongst the seniors such as Leigh Julius, Roscoe Engel and Brent Stevens.

But talented junior athlete and SA Junior champion Thado Roto will be a new face in the line-up. The Gauteng North athlete won the junior title the previous weekend, beating some of the best junior athletes in the process and could become a force in the future of South African senior athletics.

National 400m hurdles record holder LJ van Zy, 27, will only compete in the men’s 200m instead of his showcase event. He told Road to Rio 2016 this week: “I’m racing the 200m and really want to build on my speed and go as close to 21sec flat as possible. I’ll start the 400m hurdles in May only ÔÇô I just don’t feel as my fitness is 100% yet right now.”

The long distances should also be worth watching with Elroy Gelant, Stephen Mokoka and Benedict Moeng just three of the names in the lineup.┬áGelant’s recent achievements include winning the SA Cross Country trials and then finishing 20th at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland last month.

He also won four 10km road races in 2012. London Olympics marathoner Stephen Mokoka won the 10000m at the Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria in 29:41.6 last month while Moeng added the SA Marathon title to his name in Oudtshoorn in February.

At the same championships in 2012, Zarck Visser caused an upset in the men’s long jump as he ended Khotso Mokoena’s reign as the long jump champion, preventing him from obtaining the title for a fourth consecutive year.┬áMokoena has already achieved 8.15m at an indoor event in Sweden on 21 February while Visser jumped a personal best of 8.19m in Pretoria last month.

In 2012 KwaZulu-Natal’s Justine Palframan not only became the junior champion in the 400m, but also added the senior title to her name. Last weekend the 19-year-old won the 200m junior women’s title, but was marginally beaten in the 400m by Sonja van der Merwe from Western Province.

At this stage it was in some doubt as to whether Palframan, now studying at Stellenbosch University, would run both the 200m and 400m.

Other athletes competing in both events include Rorisang Rammonye from Athletics North West North that ran great times in 2012, but could not qualify for the Olympic Games with a qualifying time at an international event.

The junior Labuschagne triplets, Olivia, Alicia and Sindy, will line up in the 3000m steeplechase with Nolene Conrad and the SA record holder Tebogo Masehla. Conrad was part of Team South Africa at World Cross Country Championships in Poland.

Masehla will defend her title after winning in Port Elizabeth in 10:12.12 last year, while Conrad will be hoping to improve on her third place finish at the previous championships.┬áShe will also double in the women’s 1500m.

The 24 year-old SA marathon champion, Cornelia Joubert will be amongst the athletes in the line-up for the women’s 10000m.┬á Joubert has always been involved with track athletics and won the first marathon she ever competed in. She started her professional athletics career in 2008 where she competed in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. Mpho Mabuza will be back to defend her title. She won the event in 23:33.46 in Port Elizabeth on 14 April.

Other women to showcase their talents at the championships include Wenda Nel (previously Theron) in the 400m hurdles, Olympian Sunette Viljoen in the javelin throw, Elizna Naude in the discus throw, Janice Josephs in the long jump, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebo Phalula in the 1500m and 5000m.

The programme will start at 9am on Friday and 6.30am on the final day. Adults will pay R20, students and high school pupils R10 while children under the age of six years will enter for free.


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