South African track and field athletes shone both home and away on Friday, writes Mark Etheridge
The local action was in the form of the ASA Open Championships in Bloemfontein while further afield it was the Doha leg of the IAAF Diamond League series in Qatar.
Fittingly it was home boy Wayde van Niekerk who stole much of the limelight as he got the social media world talking with a blistering 43.88sec win in the 400 metre heats.
But the excitement soon cooled when it was found there were major issues with the timing equipment and his time was adjusted to a 44.11 clocking… still highly respectable at this stage of the season and the fastest in the world this year from the wunderkind of SA track athletics.
Staying with the 400m but this time with no obstructions and it was Lindsay Hanekom who looks to have realised his dream of booking a spot on Team South Africa at this year’s Rio Olympics.
The young Pretoria powerhouse floated around the Bloemfontein track to clock a fine 49.03sec, well inside the Olympic qualifying time of 49.40 and a personal best by 0.43sec.
The Nico van Heerden coached athlete told Road to Rio 2016: ‘Wow, I felt so many emotions after my heat, still feels unbelievable.
‘I knew it was just a question of time before that time came! I was very, very focused ahead of my race and just went out trying to strive for perfect hurdle execution.
‘I was also very relaxed between my hurdles and maintained good rhythm.
‘I’ve had a few injuries this year and didn’t have the best of SA Championships but I’ve risen above that and came out to do my my best. Now for the final in the morning!’
Come the final and Hanekom will be hoping for another early birthday present before he celebrates his 23rd birthday next weekend.’
Other good performances were Henricho Bruintjies adding this 100m title (10.21) to his SA sprint title while in the field events it was yet another hammer title of Vaal Triangle giant Chris Harmse with a solid 72.15m while in the shot put Orazio Cremona continued his comeback with a 19.38m victory.
Of the South Africans doing duty in Doha it was girl power as Caster Semenya and Sunette Viljoen flew the flag highest.
First it was Viljoen who opened activities with a 65.14m first throw and that was that with Aussie Kathryn Mitchell next best with a 63.25m best of the night.
Then it was on to Semenya who continued her wave of good form over from SA Championships where she won all three 400, 800m and 1500m national titles.
After a ‘jogged’ first lap of around 59sec, Semenya switched gears coming around the final bend and barely did enough to win as she won in world best of 1min 58.26sec.
The 400m hurdles saw Wenda Nel up against a quality field and after a great start she slipped back slightly to take fourth in 55.18sec.
Infield, Victor Hogan was another one to build on his SA champs form where he qualified for the Rio Olympics. On this occasion he threw the discus an impressive 65.59m which was good enough for third spot.
Back on track and there wasn’t too much else from the South Africans as Dumisane Hlaselo took ninth in the 1500m, and missing the Olympic standard by 0.45sec with a 3:36.65 finish.
Antonio Alkana’s eighth spot in the 110m hurdles in 13.50sec was just outside the required 13.47 Games qualification spot but impressive nevertheless.
There was little joy for the men’s 4x400m relay squad failed to finish as they aimed to also get on board the plane for Rio.
Picture of Hanekom hurdling his way to an Olympic qualifying time courtesy of ROGER SEDRES/Image SA