By Mark Etheridge
Oscar Pistorius’s brilliant best in the 400-metre track event in Italy on Tuesday has laid down the gauntlet to other prospective athletes hoping to crack the nod for Team South Africa at next month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Korea.
Pistorius clocked 45.07 seconds in Lignano, winning his race and comfortably getting inside the IAAF A qualifying mark of 45.25sec. Pistorius is the second South African to run the A qualifying mark this year after 400m hurdles specialist LJ van Zyl ran a personal best 44.86 in Germiston a few weeks after his SA 400m hurdles best in Pretoria.
Before Tuesday, Pistorius had a personal best of 45.61sec. Commenting on Pistorius’s achievement, chairperson of the ASA Track and Field Commission, James Evans said: “Oscar has really excelled to run that time in Italy. He is obviously now a front runner for a place in the World Championships team. We are allowed to take three guys who run the A qualifying standard so the fastest three guys by the cut-off date of 5 August will be selected.
“The only guaranteed places on the team are those athletes who won their events at the SA Championships and who have also run the A┬áqualifying time or those who had run the A qualifying time by 15 July. Those are definite spots in the team.
“As far as the Olympic Games are concerned, the criteria agreed upon with SASCOC, South African’s national Olympic governing body, are that the athletes must achieve the A standard twice during the qualifying standard. Again, the top three athletes who have qualified will be selected so it is premature to pencil in anyone at this stage.”
The 45.07 that Pistorius ran is the joint 17th quickest time this year, alongside Jamaica’s Jermaine Gonzales and behind Grenada’s Rondell Bartholomew who ran 44.65 in the States earlier this year. Van Zyl slots in at seventh fastest.
Quickest in the world last year was Jeremy Wariner who ran 44.13 in Zurich. Pistorius’ time would have put him joint 60th on last year’s IAAF rankings. The 400m final at the last World Championships in Berlin, Germany two years ago was won by American LaShawn Merritt in 44.06 from Wariner (44.60) ad Trinidad’s Renny Quow (45.02).