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Golden end to U18 Championships as South Africa top table

Africa

South Africa’s youth athletes are on top of the world after dominating the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships which ended in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday.

They won three more medals on the fourth day to take their tally to 11 medals.

When they come back to OR Tambo International this week the metal detectors will be busy – in the baggage will be five gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

China were next best on the medals table. They also won 11 medals and matched SA for gold medals. But the fact that SA won three silvers to the Asian nation’s two meant bragging rights belong to Africa.

Once again it was the sprint duo of Retshidisitswe Mlenga and Tshenolo Lemao who came to the party as they swopped podium positions in the 200m. Earlier in the week it was Lemao who won gold, and Mlenga silver in the 100m. Sunday saw the roles reversed as Mlenga won in 21.02 and Lemao was hard on his heels, 0.09sec later.

‘I came in very focused, having made a mistake in the 100m final, which is my favourite race,’ Mlenga said. ‘I followed my coach’s instructions and I’m very happy to have won a gold medal.’

‘Thanks to everybody, again, including my coach, who helped fix any mistakes. Finishing in silver in the 100m made me very hungry for this win.’

Lemao was also pleased with his performance, despite playing second fiddle to his compatriot over the half-lap. ‘I’m in good form and I went into the race knowing that,’ he said. ‘I’m happy we took both gold and silver again. ‘

‘Obviously we strive to win anything, but anything can happen. The plan was to bring home two medals. Thanks to everyone back home for the love and support. I’m looking for big things in the future.’

In the last event of the five-day championships, the SA Mixed 4x400m relay team scooped the bronze medal, with Mlenga, Gontse Morake, and 400m hurdles champions Soks Zazini and Zeney van der Walt completing the race in 3min 24.45sec.

Africa

In other disciplines, Valco van Wyk finished fifth in the boys pole vault final after clearing 4.55m, Robert de Villiers ended 11th in the boys 2 000m steeplechase in 6:05.23 and Jana van Schalkwyk was 12th in the girls javelin with a best attempt of 47.64m.

‘What we have achieved is beyond expression. We are very excited with what our youth team has achieved,’ said Athletics South Africa president Aleck Skhosana. ‘It’s not every day you top the world.

‘SA coaches are climbing the ladder and proving to the world nothing is impossible. Well done to all athletes and the rest of the support team who work behind the scenes.’

The championships proved that South Africa has an enormous depth of talent. Now it’s up to all concerned to keep that talent active and involved as they move up to the next level.

Pictures courtesy of Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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