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All eyes on the mile

By Mark Etheridge

The sub four-minute mile is the mission for all top middle distance runners when the first leg of the Yellow Pages Summer Series takes place at Coetzenburg Stadium, Stellenbosch on Friday, December 10.

Organisers have dangled a R5000 carrot to the first runner to dip under the four-minute barrier during the series and all subsequent runners achieving that feat will be rewarded to the tune of R1000.

Already up-country runners Samson Ngoepe and Tshamano Setone have put their hands up for the mile on the opening night, the first of four meetings scheduled for the series.

Giving words of inspiration was SA athletics legend Johan Fourie, a man who dominated the mile and 1500m events in the 1980s.

He still holds the mile mark of 3min 50.82sec, run in Port Elizabeth as way back as 23 years ago.

Fourie, who turns 51 on Thursday (Dec 2) has lived in Stellenbosch for some time now. “The mile was always my favourite distance, it was just so special. I also ran my first sub 4-min mile here at Coetzenburg so it’s also a special place.”

Fourie boasts an amazing 53 sub-4min miles and putting the local mile scene into perspective is the fact that the last sub-4min mile on South African soil was Johan Cronje’s 3:58 in Parow five years ago!

Still more evidence of the rare talent of Fourie was that he was the first man to run two sub 4-min miles in the space of an hour.

Another leading attraction will the turning out of Oscar “Bladerunner” Pistorius who runs the 150m sprint. He’ll be up against Eastern Province sprinter Leigh Julius.

Cape athletes Cornel Fredericks (300 metres hurdles), Hilton Langenhoven (long jump) and Janice Josephs (long jump) will all be in action.

Fredericks is the reigning SA 400m hurdles champion and African Championships silver medallist while Langenhoven brought back three gold medals from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Olympian and always versatile Josephs was runner-up in the heptathlon at African Championships.

Fredericks, the rising star of African hurdling confirmed his participation at Stellenbosch but is not sure what to expect.
“I’m battling a bit with a right knee injury right now and am not doing any specific hurdling training but we’ll just see how it goes. Long term I want to end next season with a time of around 48.50 after bringing my time down to 48.79 this season. I guess low 49’s will be quite OK for the first part of the season next year.”

Langenhoven is hard in training for the IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand in January. “It’s going well but I’ve been battling a bit with a hamstring injury as well as a stiff back. One thing’s for sure I’m doing way more training than at this stage last year.”

The four meetings will be in Stellenbosch, Oudtshoorn (Monday, December 13), Port Elizabeth (Wednesday, December 15) and Parow.

Said Athletics SA board chairman: James Evans: “It’s nice to start the season a bit earlier and also break it up a bit before the events in early 2011.”