By Mark Etheridge
Usain Bolt bounced back to form at the Diamond League in Rome on Thursday night, our 2008 Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena booked his place in the long jump event at the Olympic Games in London and Sunette Viljoen took silver in the javelin event.
Bolt ran his slowest 100-metre race in years in the Czech Republic last week, a 10.05sec but blitzed his way to a world-leading 9.76sec on Thursday. Jamaican counterpart Asafa Powell was left floundering in his wake with 9.93 runners-up spot.
In the long jump, Mokoena was looking for a second qualifying mark after his 8.29 metre effort in Pretoria earlier this year. He opened his campaign on Thursday with a 7.84m jump but left it till his sixth and final jump to equal the 8.20 Olympic A standard. Now all he needs to do to cement his place in London is to compete in next month’s Africa Championships in Benin.
For the rest of the South Africans there wasn’t that much to write home about, apart that is from javelin ace Viljoen.
The reigning Commonwealth champion and World Championships bronze medallist, she unleashed a 67.95 metre effort to put her second behind Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic.
Spotakova won with a 68.65 throw and Viljoen’s hurl was more than six metres further than her season’s best of 61.84m and will be a huge boost as the Games draw ever closer. Viljoen has already qualified for the London Games and her throw was just 43cm shy of her best, the 68.38m she threw at World Champs in Daegu last year.
National champion Simon Magakwe was up against Bolt in the 100m. He had been disqualified in his race against Bolt in Ostrava last week for a false-start. And it looked to have showed as he was last out of the blocks and trailed in ninth and last with a 10.33 finish. He has bettered the A qualifying mark of 10.18 on six occasions this season and needs just one qualifier on international soil to surely seal his spot.
World champion in 2009, Caster Semenya was never in the running in the women’s 800m as Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso won in 1min 57.56sec from Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya.
Magiso showed a fine turn of speed to beat Jelimo into second (1:58.33) with Russia’s Mariya Savinova third in 1:58.56. Semenya trailed in eighth in 2:00.07. It was yet another one-paced run from the 2011 silver medallist but she has shown before that she can’t be written off in the big races.
In the 400m hurdles there was another disappointing display from last year’s world-leading LJ van Zyl. Despite having qualified for the Games, Van Zyl has not been his self and battled with niggling injuries.
On Thursday he ended eighth in 50.33sec as the in-form Javier Culsom of Puerto Rico won in 48.14.
Van Zyl’s fellow World Championships finalist and current national champion, Cornel Fredericks ended third in 49.21 but was also fading in the final stages.
Then there was Ruben Ramolefi in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Chasing a qualifying time of 8:23.10sec he was never in contention and ended way back in the field, second last in 8:30.41 as Kenyan Paul Koech won in a world-leading 7:54.31.