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Hardus, Sunette shine in Split

By Mark Etheridge

It was left to our javeliners to spearhead the South African contribution at the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup track and field competition in Split, Croatia at the weekend.

Commonwealth champion Sunette Viljoen got things underway with her 62.21 metre effort on Saturday when she was good for second spot behind Russian Maria Abakumova’s 68.14 championship record.

Viljoen was the star of the South Africans in action for the African team on Saturday and both her and fellow Commonwealth champion Elizna Naude (seventh in the discus) both commented on the quickness of the throwing circle. “I felt the wind was bad over my left shoulder,” said Naude. “And that circle was extremely fast, slippery I’d say and no-one really did their best. Everybody struggled with the circle but otherwise I enjoyed and I must say that Split is awesome.”

Sunday’s heroics were left up to Viljoen’s fellow javeliner Hardus Pienaar. He came up with his best effort in four years to emulate Viljoen’s silver achievement.

Indeed his 83.17m throw, produced with his final throw, was the first time he’d beaten the 80m barrier in two years. He also had throws of 76.93 and 78.00m. His personal best is the 84.50m he threw in Hyderabad seven years ago.

Predicatably yesterday’s winner was Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen, the Olympic and world champion landing at 89.26m.

The other South Africans in action didn’t fare as well. Sprinter Estie Wittstock took seventh in the 200 (24.05sec) behind Russia’s Aleksandra Fedoriva’s 22.86 and in the men’s discus Victor Hogan’s only successful effort of 54.86 saw him bringing up the field as Germany’s Robert Harting (66.85m) took the honours.

The Africa team ended third in the continental competition with 292 points. Europe, nine points down to the Americas after Saturday’s first day of competition, went on to win with 429 points to 419.5 and Asia-Pacific brought up the rear with 286.5.

Home town girl Blanka Visic provided one of the highlights of the competition with a season-best equalling 2.05m in the high jump.