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- Olympic champ Schurter moves into Cape Epic lead
- OJ Eagles, Western Warriors rule the Currie Cup roost
- Radebe hoping to realise Tokyo 2020 dream
- Continental track championships wrap up in style
- Young Guns rule the day at Cape Epic
- SA stars on track at continental championships
- ‘Technical session’ brings out the best in Van Rensburg
- Relay quartet speed to second fastest 4×100 time
- SA longboard trio go down in Papua New Guinea
Semenya still on track for Rio 2016
- Updated: April 18, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Despite not exactly setting the world alight in recent times, Caster Semenya’s athletics passion still burns.
The 2012 Olympic silver medallist in the 800m is in action at the South African track and field championships in Coetzenberg, Stellenbosch.
She ran both the 800 and 1500m heats on Friday and qualified for the finals in both events.
New coach, Jean Verster, himself a national athlete in track and field and cross-country, is quietly confident of his charge.
‘I’ve been looking after her since November last year and she’s coming along nicely,’ the Potchefstroom based ace told Road to Rio 2016.
‘We’ve started off very slowly and we wanted to get her previous injuries all sorted out before anything. That’s all working out now so things are looking up.
‘Our two major goals are still World Championships in China later this year and then obviously the Rio Olympics next year.’
Semenya, 24, clocked 2min 09.08sec to reach Saturday’s final and she also comfortably made the final of the 1500m with a 4:37.85 clocking.
What sort of shape is she in? ‘She’s getting there,’ says Verster. ‘Probably in 2:03/4 shape, no actually she could probably run a 2:02 on Saturday.’
Whether that’s good enough to win another national title, will have to be seen.
‘She’s been very good for the training group and brings a lot of passion and positive outlook which is always good.’
On Monday she’s in action at the same venue where she’ll line up for the 3000m, yes seven and a half laps, which is way out of her normal comfort zone.
‘She actually wanted to run that distance,’ chuckled Verster. ‘She just wants to run a personal best but I don’t even know what that time is. I don’t know if she’s gone under 10min for 3000m!’
Someone who was very much in their comfort zone on Friday was hammer-throw legend Chis Harmse.
He hurled the metal sphere 71.98m which was 9.37 further than the silver medallist Johan Kruger of Boland.
It also proved that he’s in another stratosphere when it comes to SA hammer-throwing. This title is his 20th consecutive national title.
Sprinter Evette de Klerk still has more national titles – 23 – but then it must be remembered that she contested both the 100 and 200m titles back in the 80’s and 90’s.
And Harry Hart is the big daddy of them all with 31 gold medals, but in his case those were gathered over five different events. in the 1930’s.
By Mark Etheridge
The wind put paid to pretty much any record attempt at the national senior athletics championships on Friday… but for some it still meant paydirt!
A traditionally stiff south-easterly down the main straight meant that the track events had to play second fiddle to the elements.
But for field athlete Ruswahl Samaai it was just perfect.
The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist soared to a personal best 8.38-metre in the men’s long jump to get the biggest cheer of the day from a disappointingly small crowd.
There were a few sharp intakes of breath as officials checked the wind speed on the windmeter adjacent to the pit but a 1.4m sec tailwind was well inside the permitted 2m/sec.
That means the 23-year-old is not only the second best long jumper in SA behind Khotso Mokoena’s 8.50m but also the globe’s leader in this discipline this year.
It’s a gargantuan improvement on his previous best – the 8.13m he jumped in Germiston last year. At the Commonwealth Games it only took 8.08m for him to earn bronze.
‘Absolutely amazing feeling,’ were his first words after the jump. ‘I’m blessed with a gift from God and it’s great to be able to do something with this gift.
‘My first goal was just to have fun here today and just stay injury free and to be true, 8.20m was the bar for today.
‘I never expected 8.30 but 8.38… absolutely amazing. Khotso was always the one to look up to and beat… I’m getting closer now.’
Ruswahl will now stay on in Cape town for a week during which he will compete at Monday’s Varsity Cup meeting at the same venue and then he’s setting his sights on the Shanghai leg of the Diamond League series next month.
First final of the championships was the men’s 10,000m but with the wind at its strongest early in the day it was always going to be more about tactics than time and his 28min 15.56sec victory was good going in those conditions.
Then there was the women’s 5000m final which went to Lebogang Phalula in 16:19.72 from Central Gauteng team-mate Nolene Conrad (16:24.24) as the field felt the effects of the wind. ‘It was tough said Conrad. ‘I’m quite small so the wind really gets to me.’
She’ll be hoping the wind is better for Saturday morning’s 10,000m final.
Former Commonwealth Games champion LJ van Zyl cruised through to the 400m hurdles final with an easy-looking 51.72, a full second quicker than next-best PC Beneke.
There was an initial scare as he slammed into the very first hurdle but Van Zyl put that down to the wind. ‘I’m on a 22-stride strategy into the first hurdle and the wind was strong so I pushed quite hard but I think it was too hard and I misjudged things a bit.
‘But it wasn’t crazy bad. I’m not really worried about times at this meeting, I’m just here to get the South African title.’
Meanwhile the 800m heats for women saw Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya in action. Running in the second of three heats she ran her customary race of staying out of trouble early on and moving up over the last stages.
Her 2:09.08 saw her second behind Lebogang Phalula (2:09:03) and second fastest qualifier into the final.