Former world 800-metre champion Caster Semenya will run her first 800m race of the season at Saturday’s second leg of the Yellow Pages series in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The silver medallist at last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea, Semenya changed coaches, leaving Michael Seme and hooking up with former Olympic champion Maria Mutola.
She feels that has made a positive change in her athletics already. She said after her Interprovincial 400m victory in Bellville earlier this month: “Maria has not changed much in my training program, but is really working more on my race tactics and some technique work.ÔÇØ
Athletes have to reach the A-standard twice, once local and one International after 19 March to come into contention for the South African team for the Olympic Games in London later this year. The qualifying time in the 800m is 1:59.90 and Semenya has run faster than that time 11 times since 2009.
Sunette Viljoen, javelin World Championship bronze medallist last year, has already surpassed the A-Standard Olympic qualifying distance with an effort of 61.42m (A-standard is 61m) at the Central North West Provincial Championships last Saturday.
Viljoen will be in action in her home province where she will be looking to continue her good form with Czech athletes Jarmila Klimesova, Irena Sediva and Eliska Klucinova also competing. Klimesova has a personal best of 62.60m (2006) and her best last year was 61.12m in Ostrava where she was beaten by Viljoen. The 20-year-old Sediva is a promising young athlete who boasts 56.38m as her best.
Happy with her qualifying event, Viljoen, said it was good that her hard work was paying off. “I worked unbelievably hard in the off-season and I’m still busy with really intense preparation,” she told Road to London 2012’s Mark Etheridge. “Personally I would have wanted to throw further last Saturday but wind conditions were really bad.
“But at least I had the chance to test my run-up and technique with it being the first meeting of the season. I’m really looking forward to each and every meeting of the season now because that’s what I’m training for. Every competition is one step closer to the Games.”
Still hunting down an Olympic qualifier is middle-distance ace Peter van der Westhuizen. He ran the 1500m on Tuesday’s first Yellow Pages meeting in Stellenbosch and missed a B-standard time by less than a second as he clocked 3min 38.61sec.
There were no pacemakers on hand to help him but he was still satisfied given the circumstances. “I’m happy with the run but my second lap was hopelessly too slow and cost me a few seconds,”he told Road to London 2012. “But I’m not great when I lead so hopefully overseas there will be some good opportunities for some fast times. I’ll also have another crack at in Port Elizabeth [national champs in April] if the wind behaves.”
In the women’s 400m at Stellenbosch, Rorisang Rammonye from Potchefstroom won in 51.98sec, an improvement of just over 1sec (previous best 53.01sec). She’s improved at every meeting this season and is Rammonye is chasing an Olympic A-qualifying time 51.55sec. Cape athlete Sonja van der Merwe also recorded a massive personal best in Stellenbosch (53.53sec) and will line-up alongside Estie Wittstock and Namibia’s Tjipekapora Herunga┬á in Potchefstroom.
Also worth looking out for are Charlene Potgieter, who broke the SA triple jump record at the first Yellow Pages Interprovincial in Germiston and Patience Ntshingila will also be there.
Other athletes on the day will include amongst others Anuschka Nice, Mandie Brandt, Mapaseka Makhanya and the Phalula twins in the 800m with Semenya; Elizna Naude in the discus┬á and Wenda Theron in the 400m hurdles.
Theron also reached the B-Standard in Stellenbosch on Tuesday when she won in 56.25sec, but hopes to reach the A-standard of 55.50 in Potchefstroom.┬áÔÇ£This is a big dream of mine. If the weather and circumstances are good then anything is possible,ÔÇØ said Theron.