By Mark Etheridge
It was a case of 1-2-3 and gold, bronze and silver medals for South Africa as the continent’s most southern country made their mark on the first day of the 17th African Athletics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday.
Our three big men sent South Africa to the top of the medals table and it was fitting that the thrower’s ages even went in descending order with Burger Lambrechts, Roelie Potgieter and Orazio Cremona aged 37, 30 and 21 respectively.
Lambrechts left it late before sealing gold with a final throw of 18.63 metres that left Potgieter a scant centimetre adrift. Cremona was slightly shorter in bronze spot with an 18.27 heave.
Victory meant that Lambrechts picked up his second African shot put title, after winning the event 12 years ago in Dakar.
There were two other finals on the opening day of the five-day competition. On the track Wilson Kiprop gave the home fans something to shout about when he won the 10,000m in 27min 32.91sec. Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro took silver in 27:33.37 to prevent a Kenyan 1-2 with Geoffrey Mutai’s 27:33.83 giving Kenya a bronze medal. Then Senegal’s Amy Sene won the women’s hammer throw with a hurl of 64.11m for victory and a new national record.
Also on the opening day two of our main medal hopes progressed without any undue problems. Long jumper Khotso Mokoena was leading long-jump qualifier, the Beijing Olympic silver medallist leaping 8.12m to dispel fears that an ankle injury would disrupt his competition. His qualifing effort was three centimetres better than the next best, Senegal’s Ndiss Kaba Badji.
World 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi also had few worries in going through, cruising to a 1min 51.81sec qualifying effort in the two-lapper. Countryman Windy Jonas was in fact quicker than Mulaudzi in the heats, clocking 1:50.22. The South Africans both ended third in their heats to end sixth and 12th fastest in the heats.
Quickest qualifer was Kenya’s Alfred Kirwa with a 1:48.66 and title favourite David Rudisha, also of Kenya, was seventh quickest with 1:50.51. Mulaudizi is a wily campaigner at championships and you can be assured he won’t be expending any extra energy in the heats.
In the 100m semi-finals, our Simon Magakwe ran a season’s best 10.24 to end the day as fourth fastest qualifer. But Hannes Dreyer wasn’t as lucky, being 13th fastest after the three semi-finals with a 10.49 and missing out on the final.
In the 400m, we had another two qualfiers after the first round. Ofentse Mogawane was seventh fastest qualifier with a 46.65 while Estie Wittstock went through the heats as fifth fastest qualifier with a 53.39sec effort.