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Golden girl Van der Walt wins in Finland

Zeney van der Walt earned South Africa’s second gold medal of the IAAF World U20 Championships on Friday night as she charged to a commanding victory in the 400m hurdles final in Tampere, Finland.

Competing in wet conditions, Van der Walt crossed the line in 55.34sec, finishing well clear of second-placed Jamaican athlete Shiann Salmon who clocked 56.11.

Van der Walt, the South African junior record holder, also won the world U18 title in Kenya last year and adds to Kyle Blignaut’s gold in the shot put after the giant young man opened the nation’s campaign in style earlier in the week.

In the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles, Sokwakhana ‘Soks’ Zazini confirmed his status as the title favourite by winning his race in 49.43sec, progressing as the fastest qualifier for Saturday night’s final.

Lourens Steenkamp finished sixth in his race in 51.26 and was eliminated.

Earlier, in the men’s javelin qualifying round, Anro van Eeden launched a 72.22m heave, progressing automatically to the final on Saturday.

The SA 4x100m men’s relay team, who entered the event among the favourites for gold, were disqualified in their heat and missed out on a spot in the final.

‘Performing under wet conditions is always challenging and Zeney must be congratulated for overcoming that to fly the SA flag high,’ said Aleck Skhosana, president of Athletics South Africa.

‘We still have other podium opportunities from all the athletes who have progressed to the finals in their respective events and we are confident that they will fight for the nation. We thank Zeney, the coaches and support staff for the achievement.’

Photo: Van der Walt celebrates gold in Finland, by Roger Sedres/ImageSA


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