The absence of Oscar Pistorius on the track means the doors have opened for a brand new 4x400m relay team should the side qualify for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in August.
South Africa is running out of time to qualify a relay team for a berth among the top 16 for the Moscow, Russia, championships, as per the IAAF qualification criterion.
The standard entry time is 3:05 for the 4x400m and 39.20 for the 4x100m, with the qualification deadline set for July 29.
The career of the “Blade Runner”, as Pistorius is known, remains on hold while he faces a murder trial. He ran the first leg of the 4x400m relay during a national record-breaking performance at the previous world champs in South Korea two years ago.
Pistorius also anchored the side to a season best 3:03.46 at the London Olympic Games last year.
The full Daegu 2011 team that clocked the SA record 2:59.21 was made up of Pistorius, Ofentse Mogawane, Willie de Beer and Shane Victor. Shaun de Jager was the newest member of the team at the Olympics.
With the future of Pistorius in doubt, a new generation of 400m specialists has emerged in the form of Wayde van Niekerk and Jacques de Swardt, who have picked up the baton from Pistorius.
The youngsters are heading the domestic top performers’ charts and are also the highest-ranked South Africans in the world’s one-lap rankings.
Reigning SA champion Van Niekerk of Free State Athletics, and De Swardt of Gauteng North, have each clocked sub-46 seconds this year and have also qualified for the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia, from July 6 to 17.
Another prospect for the relay is PC Beneke, who has also qualified for the 400m hurdles at the Kazan event.
Veterans of the 4x400m superteam, Mogawane, as well as 400m hurdlers Van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks, can also be considered to run the one-lap relay.
Van Zyl took the place of Pistorius in Daegu and anchored the team to a silver medal in a time of 2:59.87.
Athletics SA athletes coordinator Hezekiel Sepeng said there were two chances to qualify the relay teams: at the Student Games and in the Czech Republic this month.
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