SA trio star in Oslo | TeamSA - TeamSA

SA trio star in Oslo

By Mark Etheridge

It was a busy night for the South African contingent at the Bislett Games athletics meeting in Norway on Thursday, with a medal haul of gold, silver and bronze.

Still in search of a qualifying leap for the World Championships in South Korea later this year, Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena took gold with an 8.08 metre effort. That’s still 12cm off the A-qualifying standard but the gold will make up for that on an evening that saw heavy showers putting a damper on things.

Mokoena took the lead with an opening effort of 8.07m and his best effort came with his sixth and last leap of the evening. It wasn’t the strongest line-up of the season thus far and he beat Denmark’s Morten Jensen into second (8.01).

Caster Semenya continued her improvement ahead of the defence of her world 800m title with a season’s best. Her time was 1min 58.61sec but the fact that that was only good for third spot means the gold medal in Korea is by no means a fait accompli.

Tactically she ran a better race than her silver medal at the Prefontaine Classic in America last weekend, and was always in contention, unlike in Oregon where she left herself with a bagful of work to do in the final stages.

Irish pacemaker Karen Shinkins took the field through the bell in 56.52, just what the contenders had ordered. The 600m split was 1:28.51 and coming down the main straight Semenya eased away from Britain’s Jenny Meadows and looked to have sealed things but first he powerful Russian figure of Mariya Savinovaat went past her in the final straight and then at the death Morocco’s Halima Hachlaf unleashed a strong finish to power past both of them.

Hachlaf’s winning time was 1:58.27 and Savinova’s 1:58.44. Still, Semenya notched up another psychological victory over Beijing Olympic silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei who was a well-beaten fourth. Hachlaf’s wining time is a world-leading time this year.

Semenya now lies fourth in the Diamond League standings.

South Africa’s bronze medal came in the shape of young Robert Oosthuizen. Already having qualified for the World Championships, his 82.07m opening effort was the best of the group. He struggled from that point on but that first throw was enough to give the Malmesbury athlete the silver behind Matthias de Zordo whose winning throw pegged at 83.94.

Thursday night’s results mean that Oosthuizen, who has now ended in the top three spots in successive Diamond League competitions, is joint leader of the Diamond League series with Petr Frydrych of the Czech Republic (81.09 on Thursday) and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki. (80.22m).

The other South African in action on Friday was US based middle-distance runner Peter van der Westhuizen but it wasn’t a night to remember for him. He hit the deck hard with 200m to run but got up to end 17th and last in the men’s 1500m, clocking 3:49.42 in a race won by Nicholas Kiptanui Kemboi in 3:37.25. .

The meeting’s highlight was sprint legend Usain Bolt’s first appearance in the 200m for more than a year. After two 100m efforts of 9.91 thus far in the season, he was back to his imperious best, sweeping to victory in 19.86. That mark was just 0.04sec outside Namiban Frankie Frederick’s meeting record, set way back in 1996.