Light at the end of the tunnel for SA athletes

Anaso Jobodwana Light at the end of the tunnel for SA athletes

Moscow – They may not return with an abundance of medals, but the 26 South African athletes competing in the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, starting Saturday, may well provide some light and inspiration to counter the months of boardroom battles which threatened to disrupt their participation.

In the absence of Caster Semenya, who failed to qualify for the women’s 800m event, US-based student Anaso Jobodwana could grab the South African limelight.

The 100m and 200m sprinter was a surprise finalist in the 200m at the London Olympics, and, with Yohan Blake, injured, and both Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell banned for doping, Jobodwana hoped to take it a stage further.

“The main thing is to improve on my times. All I am interested in is getting a personal best in both of my events,” Jobodwana said in Moscow today.
“Then, at the right times, everything else will happen.”

Given the limited field of 200m contenders, a case could be made for Jobodwana to skip the 100m event – where his best of 10.10 seconds would most likely not be good enough to make the final – in order to focus on the 200m. “I was told that I needed to run the semifinal in London as though it was the final,” said the 20-year-old.

“I wish I had been more prepared for that, because running the semi took a lot out of me.”

Either way, he could become South Africa’s most successful sprinter in the 200m and, as one of the youngest on the team, he could provide the inspiration for others to make their mark.

Javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen was the best of the medal hopes with her 69.35m throw in New York last year.

After coming second to Barbora Špotáková’s 69.55 at the London Olympics, she had yet to show the same form this year, but Viljoen was certainly capable adding to her championship glory.

The same was true of Olympic and world silver medal long jumper Khotso Mokoena. The senior team member had failed to hit form over the past two seasons, and sat a lowly tenth on the ranking lists, but was sixth best for the current year.

Zarck Visser joined Mokoena and could benefit from his experience, but the SA champion had not expanded on the potential shown by his 8.29m qualifying leap in Stellenbosch.

Similarly, Lynique Prinsloo should make the women’s long jump final, but would need to be back to her 6.81m best, which secured her the SA title.

If Jobodwana, Visser and Prinsloo were the best of the young pretenders, then Mokoena, hammer thrower Chris Harmse, 41-year-old marathoner Hendrick Ramaala and 400m hurdler LJ van Zyl were the old guard.

Van Zyl would be competing in his fifth world championship, with his best showing in 2011 when he won the bronze medal in Daegu.

Having failed to break 49 seconds since then, the 28 year-old knew he had to hold his pace to the line.

“Its going to take a 48.50-something to be sure of a final (spot),” said Van Zyl.

He could be handing the mantle, as the leading South African hurdler, to Cornel Fredericks, who clocked 48.78 in the South African championships in April and was fifth on debut in Daegu.

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