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SA strike double gold on day one of African Championships in Durban
- Updated: June 23, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Host nation South Africa got their African Senior Championships up and running in golden style in Durban on Wednesday.
Two medals, one on track and one infield, came South Africa’s way on day one of the five days of competition.
The eternally classy Stephen Mokoka, already qualified for the Rio Olympics in less than two months time, won the 10,000 and has continental bragging rights after his 28min 02.97sec win over the 25-lapper.
‘The (erratic) pace caught me off guard but I’m very happy that I managed to win, especially at home against the Kenyans and Ethiopians,’ Mokoka said as he beat Kenya’s Wilfred Kimitei into second spot (28:03.18).
Mokoka’s countryman, Gladwin Mzazi, was 10th in 29:03.18.
In the shot put it was Jaco Engelbrecht whose 20.00-metre effort brought him gold and was also just 50cm short of an Olympic qualifying distance.
He was one of three South Africans in action as 2014 Commonwealth Games competitor Orazio Cremona took fifth with a 19.15 best on the night with young Burger Lambrechts eighth in 17.79m.
Congo’s Franck Elemba ended runner-up with a throw 11cm shy of Engelbrecht’s effort.
Twenty-nine-year-old Engelbrecht, a medallist at last year’s African Games in Brazzaville, Congo, told Road to Rio 2016: ‘I’m pretty happy about the result obviously, but would have like to hit the Rio qualifier. But this win is pretty amazing seeing that I was almost forced to withdraw due to an injury. I basically came into this comp with three solid days of technical work because I pulled a muscle in my stomach three weeks back.
‘But I felt good in the warm ups today and hitting every position that I should technically so I was happy. I had a pretty good start with a 19.38 first round and then a 19.77 second round effort but I know Frank from Congo and Stephen [Mozia] from Nigeria could take me on that.
‘The third round I felt my injury playing up again and was a bit scared to go all out. But after Frank took the lead in the third round I had to try and go “mind over matter”,’ he laughed.
‘I felt good every throw but just couldn’t quite hit the same position as in the first two rounds……then Stephen took silver from me on the last round and I had to dig deep
‘I just made sure I hit every position as perfectly as possible on my last throw and smashed the shot as hard as possible. The moment I hit it I knew it was big… 20.00 but I still had to wait because Frank still had a throw to come. Luckily it was 19.8 or something so I could start celebrating.’
Sadly this might be the end of the season for the 146kg giant.’I can’t see myself quickly getting on a plane and getting an easy qualifying throw in Europe. There might be a small meeting in the next two weeks in Gauteng that I will risk it all but that meeting has a 50/50 chance of taking place.
‘My injuries have set me back quite a bit this season. Everytime I looked like getting some form (and there were some 21m throws in training) some weird niggle comes up and I can’t throw for a week or two. I worked out that I had 12 off-weeks this year because of those little niggles.
Cremona, who was part of Team SA at the 2014 Commonwealth Games is still not happy as he works his way back from injury as well: ‘It was terrible again,’ he admitted candidly as ever. Been a tough year but it was just not my year i guess.
‘19.15 for me is not good. I think it’s been a roller coaster ride since trying to come back and that has taken its toll on me emotionally and mentally which leads to the physical.
‘I’m definitely going to take a good long break as I have the opportunity, it will be the first time in four or five years. So I will take it and enjoy what it is like to be a normal human again,’ he laughed. ‘So I’ll take stock and pray about things and move on from there.’
In other field action involving South Africans, young Marga Cumming ended seventh in the hammer, the 17-year-old Middelburg athlete’s 55.48m throw, some way off Senegalese powerhouse Amy Sene’s 68.35m. Chene Coetzee was ninth with 50.46.
Track action saw the heats and semi-finals of the men’s and women’s 100m
There was no sign of national champion Henricho Bruintjies in the men’s event and it was SA record-holder Akani Simbine who was quickest South African in 10.25 and he’s joined in Thursday’s final by Thando Roto (10.28) and double Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist Gift Leotlela (10.29).
The women’s 100m saw SA duo Carina Horn and Tebogo Mamathu into the final with runs of 11.14 and 11.58. But there was no place for joint SA record-holder Alyssa Conley who was disqualified for false starting in her heat.
She told Road to Rio 2016: ‘Yes I’m disappointed as it doesn’t happen to me often but I’m pushing forward and looking forward to a great 200.’
In men’s two-lap action it was Jacob Rozani (1:49.91), Kabelo Mohlosi (1:49.94) and Rynardt van Rensburg, World Student Games bronze medallist (2:02.81 on Wednesday) who progressed to the men’s final, while Maryke Brits (13.52), Claudia Heunis (13.58) and Taylon Bieldt (13.71) reached the women’s 100m hurdles final.