Samaai soars to world's leading leap of 2015 at nationals | TeamSA - TeamSA

Samaai soars to world’s leading leap of 2015 at nationals

By Mark Etheridge
at Coetzenberg

The wind put paid to pretty much any record attempt at the national senior athletics championships on Friday… but for some it still meant paydirt!
A traditionally stiff south-easterly down the main straight meant that the track events  had to play second fiddle to the elements.
But for field athlete Ruswahl Samaai it was just perfect.
The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist soared to a personal best 8.38-metre with his first and only legitimate effort in the men’s long jump to get the biggest cheer of the day from a disappointingly small crowd.
There were a few sharp intakes of breath as officials checked the wind speed on the windmeter adjacent to the pit but a 1.4m sec tailwind was well inside the permitted 2m/sec.
That means the 23-year-old is not only the second best long jumper in SA behind Khotso Mokoena’s 8.50m but also the globe’s leader in this discipline this year.
It’s a gargantuan improvement on his previous best – the 8.13m he jumped in Germiston last year. At the Commonwealth Games it only took 8.08m for him to earn bronze.
‘Absolutely amazing feeling,’ were his first words after the jump. ‘I’m blessed with a gift from God and it’s great to be able to do something with this gift.
‘My first goal was just to have fun here today and just stay injury free and to be true, 8.20m was the bar for today.
‘I never expected 8.30 but 8.38… absolutely amazing. Khotso was always the one to look up to and beat… I’m getting closer now.’
Ruswahl will now stay on in Cape town for a week during which he will compete at Monday’s Varsity Cup meeting at the same venue and then he’s setting his sights on the Shanghai leg of the Diamond League series next month.
First final of the championships was the men’s 10,000m but with the wind at its strongest early in the day it was always going to be more about tactics than time and his 28min 15.56sec victory was good going in those conditions.
Then there was the women’s 5000m final which went to Lebogang Phalula in 16:19.72 from Central Gauteng team-mate Nolene Conrad (16:24.24) as the field felt the effects of the wind. ‘It was tough said Conrad. ‘I’m quite small so the wind really gets to me.’
She’ll be hoping the wind is better for Saturday morning’s 10,000m final.
Former Commonwealth Games champion LJ van Zyl cruised through to the 400m hurdles final with an easy-looking 51.72, a full second quicker than next-best PC Beneke.
There was an initial scare as he slammed into the very first hurdle but Van Zyl put that down to the wind. ‘I’m on a 22-stride strategy into the first hurdle and the wind was strong so I pushed quite hard but I think it was too hard and I misjudged things a bit.
‘But it wasn’t crazy bad. I’m not really worried about times at this meeting, I’m just here to get the South African title.’
Meanwhile the 800m heats for women saw Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya in action. Running in the second of three heats she ran her customary race of staying out of trouble early on and moving up over the last stages.
Her 2:09.08 saw her second behind Lebogang Phalula (2:09:03) and second fastest qualifier into the final.