By Mark Etheridge
The men’s 1,500 metre is shaping up to be one of the races to watch at Friday night’s second Yellow Pages track and field meeting in Durban.
Tshemano Setone’s sterling efforts over 5,000m at the first race of the series in Port Elizabeth last week have shone the light on an event that has faded into the shadows in recent years.
The fastest time by a South African last year was Olebogeng Masire’s 13min 41.45sec, coincidentally, also in Port Elizabeth.
Setone imediately raised the benchmark last week with a fine run of 13:25:51.
An indication of that time’s significance can be seen by the fact that it’s the sixth fastest 5,000m yet by a South African and of the times quicker than him, the most recent was run by Alistair Cragg in 2002 when he clocked 13:22:07 in the states.
The current record of 13:14:16 was set by Shadrack Hoff in Gateshead, England 15 years ago.
For now though, Setone, who before last week’s meeting said his season target had been to break 13:30, turns his attention to the 1,500m.
Going into Friday’s meeting the 22-year-old’s personal best stands at 3:38.29, also set in Durban, last year. Word has it that he’s in shape to run around the 3:36 mark which would place him right up there in the national rankings.
There’s no doubting that the efforts over the metric mile last year of fellow South Africans Juan van Deventer, Johan Cronje and Peter van der Westhuizen have seen renewed interest in this event after the glorious Johan Fourie period of the 1980’s.
And Van Deventer has kept the interest going with his efforts on the European indoor circuit where he broke the national 1,500m record.
Sadly though Van Deventer will not be in Durban action on Friday, opting instead to focus all this energies on next month’s World Indoor championships in Qatar.
But another big name will definitely be mixing it in the 1,500m as reigning world 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi makes his first appearance in the Yellow Pages series. Mulaudzi goes into the race with a personal best of 3:38:55, coincidentally, also set in Durban.