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Rio stars shine at national championships in PE

By Mark Etheridge

Team South Africa’s Rio Paralympians were out in full force as the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled in Port Elizabeth swung into action this week.

Fittingly it was an athlete who had cruelly been denied the chance to progress in Rio who had the biggest smile after two days. And it belonged to the burgeoning blitz from Bloemfontein, Louzanne Coetzee.

She was in action in three events in less than two days, actually in the space of 24 hours. Her first event was the 5000m and after 18min 37.23sec of hard racing she was the proud owner of a new world T11 race. The previous mark (also behind her name) was 19:17.06.

The born-blind athlete’s second race was the 1500m where she dipped under the five minute barrier for the first time to set a new national mark of 4:58.23.

That was a national record, which once again belonged to her, after having run 5:00.03 in Germany last year.

But there was still work for her and her guide Khothatso Mokone as she ran her final event of the championships, the two-lapper, little more than a sprint for the little Free Stater.

Going into the race her SA record stood at 2:35.77. As she crossed the line she still had the SA record, only it had been trimmed to 2:31.11.

In Rio, the pair had been disqualified after the 1500m semi-final after she was judged to have received too much assistance from Mokone during the course of the race.

The bubbly blonde said after her PE efforts: ‘Beforehand I was bit worried about wind… but I always look forward to the 5000m and was very keen to run so in the actual race I didn’t feel it.

‘It’s very cool to finish in a time like that, I didn’t think I’d run sub 18:40 so when I ran 18:37 I was very, very happy – quite tired obviously but I had given it my all.

‘I worked very hard during the race and it’s a big privilege to get the record. I knew it was possible but it didn’t feel like I was on track during the race.

‘And then to get two other SA records in my other races was also awesome.’

Two of Coetzee’s Rio team-mates were also in the thick of the action, with both Reinhardt Hamman and Tyrone Pillay picking up victories in their field events.

Hamman, who took gold in the F38 category in Rio, was in action in both javelin and shot put, winning gold in both events, the first with a 50.21m throw and the second with a 12.15m effort.

‘The goal my coach and I set for these championships was 50m. The lead up for to the Nedbank National Championships went great. Only three days before my javelin competition my neck went into spasm. Lucky I had a great physio here in PE who  managed to sort my neck out in time for me to compete.

‘This comp didn’t go as I would have liked, but I’m happy to have thrown a 50.21m so early in the season.’ His PB stands at 50.96.

The shot put was something of a new ball game for Hamman who was competing in this code for the first time in 15 months.

And it wasn’t without complications for the big Western Cape athlete who underwent knee surgery late last year

‘The shot put still went great considering I haven’t had any shot put training in 16 months. So my goal was to throw 12m and i managed to throw 12.15m.

‘I did have to stop throwing after the second round as my knee started giving me issues. So I will be having a chat with my coach and doctors about the way forward for me and shot put.’

Meanwhile shot put specialist Pillay had no problems in his F42 category, winning with a 12.61m best on the day.

 

The Port Elizabeth venue has a special place in Pillay’s heart as he returned for his ninth SA championships.

‘I started at this same stadium in 2009 at my first Sa champs so it was special to be back here.

‘I’ve been out of action for eight weeks with a torn forearm muscle (from weight training) and haven’t been a lot to throw a lot so this was only my third throwing session.

‘The distance was far off from what I did in Rio but it would have been crazy to expect to throw those distances again. My rhythm and feel just weren’t there and I just wanted to get back into things.

All pictures courtesy of Martin Potgieter/BONZAI Photography


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