By Mark Etheridge
National record holder Johan Cronje had another solid showing at the Rome leg of the IAAF Diamond League track and field meeting on Thursday but it wasn’t a night when South Africans shot their hands up for automatic inclusion to the Commonwealth Games squad.
Cronje was coming off the back of his new mile record in Eugene, Oregon at the weekend where he ran 3min 50.70sec to break Johan Fourie’s 27-year-old SA mark.
As such he was no doubt feeling that race in his legs, coupled with the trans-Atlantic journey which would have added some jet leg and leg stiffness.
Still, he won’t say no to a time of 3:34.90, good for eighth in a field of 13. His best this season is a 3:33.31. The race was won by Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat in 3:30.44.
The key performers had asked pacemakers for an 800m split of 1:51 but it was a slow start and the pacemakers went through two laps in 1:53.17 with the top dogs around a second back.
Cronje, as usual, stayed out of trouble for the most part, and had another strong finish. The meeting record is 3:26:00 so Kiplagat’s mark was some way off that.
Speaking to Road to Rio 2016, Cronje said: “I felt good till about 500m to go. Then with 300 to go my legs decided they were’t in the mood to go faster. Its just my last lap that I ran two seconds slower than usual. Hope all goes well again in Oslo.”
Oslo, Norway is the venue for the next leg of the Diamond League tour next Wednesday.
There was much interest in Olympic silver medallist and 2009 world champion Caster Semenya who hasn’t set the track alight in the 800m this season.
Her best this year was the 2:03.05 she ran to win seniors in Pretoria two months ago and while she bettered that with a 2:02.66 on Friday she looked rather one-paced and a pale shadow of the woman who possesses one of the most feared finishes in women’s middle-distance running.
To ensure her spot on Team SA for Glasgow next month she would have to be one of the top five Commonwealth athletes and going into last night’s meeting was a lowly 18th on the rankings. Winner on the night was Kenya’s Eunice Jepkoech Sum who dipped under two minutes (1:59.49).
In the sprints SA champion and South Africa’s only sub 10-second 100m runner, Simon Magakwe was also in action.
Magakwe’s 9.98 blitz came in the rarified atmosphere of Pretoria and at Rome’s sea level venue he clocked 10.20 to end sixth behind Justin Gatlin’s 9.91.
Our only other athlete in action (and the only field competitor) was Kleinmond’s big Victor Hogan in the discus. He ended up 10th on the night with a hurl of 59.22 as Germany’s Robert Harding took gold in 68.36. His comment on social website Facebook pretty much summed up his evening: “It’s great to have those days when you throw personal bests and the discus hits nicely and everything feels good in the circleÔÇª today wasn’t one of those days!”