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Barjo goes close for SA

By Mark Etheridge

Close but not close enough… lifesaver Barjo van Niekerk came within 0.43 seconds of securing South Africa’s first medal of the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.

Competing in the men’s 50-metre carry final in the main swimming pool, the Pretoria athlete placed fourth in 31.61sec to narrowly miss out on bronze (won in 30.47.

The carry event sees athletes dive into the pool, swim to the halfway mark and then dive to the bottom of the pool where they pick up the 60kg mannikin (a dummy shaped like a human) and complete the length of the pool.

Van Niekerk knows what its like to win at the World Games, having brought two medals home in the 2005 version of the Games in Duisberg, Germany.

But elsewhere in the pool the pain continued for Team SA as the Chinese and Italians dominated.

Cape Town duo Eloise van Gysen and Jade Antune finished fifth (2:17.95) and eighth (2:24.76) respectively in the 200m obstacle B final, the winning time being 2:14:49.

In the men’s B final of the same event, Durban’s Shaun Dias was eighth and last (2:03:45) as China’s Yu-Jie Lang won in 1:59:94.

Then it was the women’s 4×50 obstacle relay where the South Africans took eighth in 2:04:45 behind a world record win by China in 1:50:49.

The men fared no better, also ending eighth (1:44.60) as the Chinese set another world record, this time touching the wall in 1:33.88.

In the women’s 50m carry B final, Antunes was in action again, taking eighth in 42.63.

Last events of the evening were the 4X25m mannikin relay which sees the mannikin carried from swimmer to swimmer rather like a track and field athlete carrying a baton.

The women finished eighth in 1:54.56 as Germany won in 1:27.33 and the men fared marginally better, taking seventh (1:17.57) as Italy won in 1:11.23 (a Games record).

Meanwhile at the Lotus Pond the SA waterskiiers were making a splash in the shape of barefooters Andre de Villiers and Heinrich Sam.

They finished second and third in the jump category, behind Great Britain’s David Small. Small soared to a 26.8 metre effort with De Villiers and Sam reaching 25.5 and 23.7m respectively. The jump final is scheduled for Saturday.

Said 21-year-old De Villiers: “I’m pretty happy with my form but the conditions weren’t great. The water surface is supposed to be completely flat but this breeze has actually made things quite dangerous.”

Sam, 17, is the reigning world barefoot champion in both the Under-18 and Over-18 categories.

Still at the Pond, Cape Town’s Samantha Martin has completed the slalom and tricks categories but judges had still not tallied the scores before the jumping stage.

The fourth member of the waterski category, Bedfordview’s Shaun Faccio faces a ski-off to secure his place in Saturday’s final.

In cue-sports, South African woes continued. After Francois Ellis lost his snooker last 16 clash on Wednesday, Jason Theron and Apsra Panchoo both went out in the nine-ball billiard format.

Theron lost 11-6 (race-to-11-format) to Italy’s Bruno Muratore while Panchoo went down 9-3 (race-to-nine format) to Allison Fisher of Britain, who has already won 15 world titles.