By Mark Etheridge
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Just like the torrential rains here, the medals continued to pour in for Team South Africa at the African Union Region 5 Games on Thursday.
After netball’s silver earlier in the day, another five medals came the way of the athletics code, also being held at White City Stadium. And there were another two medals in the tennis at Bulawayo Athletics Club.
The track and field medals came in the boy’s javelin (gold and silver), gold in the girl’s 400m hurdles and two bronzes (boys 400m hurdles and girls triple jump).
That went nicely with the 14 medals won by track and field the previous day and South Africa are also involved in five finals on Friday.
First medals were won in the morning courtesy of LJ Basson and Leon Loubser.
Basson hurled the javelin 69.51 metres for gold and Loubser’s 66.20m sealed him silver.
Said Basson, a 19-year-old B Comm (Economics and Risk Management) student at Potch University: ‘I definitely wanted further than I threw today but it was very hot. I was hoping to come here and improve on my personal best, the 70.75 I threw in a local league meeting two weeks ago.’
Basson is the latest in a long production line of javelin throwers churned out be Terteus Liebenberg and he’s been doing javelin since Grade 5.
First of the afternoon events was the women’s triple jump as the giant storm clouds gathered above. SA had two jumpers in the shape of Somien Schutte and Taylia Visagie.
It was a small field of just four athletes and after eight attempts there were only two legitimate jumps. And then the heavens opened, causing more delays.
After officials deemed the lightning to be sufficiently far away things got underway again and it was Schutte who won SA’s next medal, bronze with a best leap of 11.77m.
Next up was the women’s 400m hurdles and Chanté Finger pretty much lead from start to finish, clocking 1min 02.82sec for gold.
‘I had a nice week of training going into the final, as there were no heats for my event,’ said the Pretoria teenager who now eagerly awaits the results of her matric finals at Zwartkops High School.
‘So we just did a lot of speed and lactic acid stuff in the build-up. As for the race, I started a bit slowly, maybe the nerves but I got better and better.
‘I would have been happy with a quicker time (my best is a 60.10) but that will come. This is the first time that I have been part of Team South Africa in a multicode event and I must say it’s been awesome, a great experience.’
The Hennie Kotze trained athlete is planning on studying physiotherapy at Tukkies next year.
The team’s second bronze came courtesy of Larry Lombard in the boy’s 400m hurdles as he was clocked at 53.01 for third spot. The Randburg athlete’s personal best is the 52.11 that he ran at SA Senior Schools championships in Polokwane in April.
He plans to study exercise science in the United States as he wants to make coaching his profession.
The boys’ long jump was postponed till Friday after the torrential rain had drenched the pit. That meant that the final event of the day with SA participation was the boys’ 1500m where Xaba Mavuso was in action.
The youngster hit the front from the gun and lead until around the 1000m mark before the field hunted him down and he trailed home in eighth spot.
Friday sees the SA athletes in search of more medals in five finals before competition wraps up on Saturday.
After tennis’s gold medal sweep of the singles on Wednesday, the boys doubles combo of Francois Kellerman and Musa Mpondi lost to Zimbabwe in three sets but still earned a silver medal for SA.
And the girls went one better with Katie Poluta and Caitlin Herb beating Zimbabwe in the girls doubles final.
The mixed doubles of Poluta and Mpondi beat Angola 6-0 6-3 to book a place in the semi-finals against Lesotho while in the team event SA beat Botswana 4-0 to play Zimbabwe for the gold medal.
Team South Africa’s medal tally for the games is rapidly approaching the half-century mark and that was before the swimming events added another 12 medals in the evening. See later story on website.
At the end of Thursday’s competition and with two days of competition to go, Team SA had won 75 medals.