Best buddies Jonathan Ntutu and Hilton Langenhoven bagged gold and silver for Team South Africa at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday, writes MARK ETHERIDGE on the Gold Coast, Australia.
The two T12 visually impaired athletes raced to the 1-2 double, following in the footsteps of compatriots Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies, who pulled off the same feat earlier in the week.
It was a full house of track medals for the team as Wenda Nel added a bronze to the track tally.
Ntutu, who set a Games record of 10.80sec in the morning heats, clocked 11.02 to take gold with Langenhoven second in a season’s best 11.27.
‘Wow, the feeling of winning gold is just awesome, although it’ll probably only really sink in a bit later,’ said Cape Town’s Ntutu.
‘There’s no doubting Akani and Henricho’s 1-2 in the 100m the other day motivated us to try even harder to do the same here tonight.’
Ntutu was born with his sight severely impaired and his first love was cricket but he changed to athletics when he was unable to see the ball properly. He recently attended the cricket Test between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers ground in Johannesburg.
Langenhoven concurred entirely with Ntutu: ‘Gold and silver from Akani and Henricho was something special for South Africa and it gave us goosebumps.
‘We were convinced we’d get gold and silver but just didn’t know what order,’ he laughed. ‘It’s something lovely that Jonny and I will be able to sit down and chat about one day.’
It’s his second silver medal, having also won silver (in the 100m) in Melbourne, Australia 12 years ago.
In the first race of the evening with SA participation, it was Nel who raced to her first Commonwealth Games medal to make up for the disappointment of being disqualified in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago.
After running 54.61sec in her heat two days ago, she took bronze in 54.96, a bit slower than her time in the heat. Jamaica’s Janieve Russell won in 54.33 with Eilidh Doyle of Scotland second in 54.80, her second Games silver medal, a repeat of Glasgow four years ago.
‘The tears will come,’ said Nel afterwards. ‘But they’ll be tears of joy. I just raced for that line. I went out very hard because I wanted to push my body as much as I can. It wasn’t a perfect race but I still finished strongly, even though I nearly fell at that last hurdle… not a nice feeling!’
Nel will probably, somewhere in the back of her mind, wish her performance in the heats had carried over into the final as she had admitted after her heat that she felt she was definitely on course for a personal best.
But finals are a different beast and it’s about medals and times. With the form she’s showing right now, an excellent season in Europe looks to be on the cards.
Final South African in action was Clarence Munyai in the men’s 200m final. He went off after an excellent heat, although there had been concerns with the manner in which he finished his semi on Wednesday as he pulled up inordinately quickly at the line.
He was never in the running in the final, taking fifth in 20.58 as England’s Zharnel Hughes won in 20.12.
Afterwards, it appears there was something to be read into his semi-finals. ‘I hurt my hamstring in the semi and thought it would maybe hold out. But coming into the straight, these guys were quick. But I think a two-week break will sort it out.
‘The hammy is very painful now but I’m just happy to finish my first big final.’
The latest medals bring South Africa’s total up to 32, an increase of six from Wednesday, and they currently sit fifth on the table between Canada and New Zealand. The other medals came from bowls (bronze, Mixed B2/B3 pairs), Alan Hatherly (bronze, MTB cross-country), and Johannes Botha (silver, freestyle 74kg).
Photo: Ntutu and Langenhoven on the victory podium by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA