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Pillay on SA in Qatar

Geraldine Pillay, manager of South Africa’s five-strong team at the weekend’s World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Qatar, returned from Doha encouraged by the team’s performance.

Three South Africans — Khotso Mokoena, Juan van Deventer and Rene Kalmer — reached the finals of their events in Doha.

Van Deventer capped a superb debut season with sixth place in the men’s 1500m final, and Pillay believes he has laid a solid foundation for this year’s outdoor season, which will culminate in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.

ÔÇ£I believe the indoor champs took him through some learning curves,ÔÇØ Pillay said. ÔÇ£It’s a good stepping stone for him as he prepares for the Commonwealth Games.ÔÇØ

Mokoena was the best of the South Africans, earning silver in the men’s long jump final ÔÇô a tremendous performance after a foot injury had disrupted his preparations in defence of the title he won two years ago in Valencia.

Kalmer reached the women’s 3000m final where she placd ninth after improving her own national record to 9min 1.41sec in the heats, and the versatile distance runner will be pleased with her indoor season after setting three South African records.

And while Pillay said that Mokoena in particular should be commended for his performance, she added that long jumper Janice Josephs needed to go back to the drawing board after the former heptathlete failed to reach the final with a best jump of 6.02m in the qualifying round.

Pillay, however, remains confident that Josephs can bounce back in the outdoor season. ÔÇ£Janice still has a lot to work on. She needs to go back to training to deal with a few issues as she is currently juggling between the 100m hurdles and the long jump at national level,ÔÇØ Pillay said.

ÔÇ£Maybe she needs to jerk up her performance strategy. I believe, however, that by the time the Commonwealth Games begin, she will be a different athlete.ÔÇØ

Pillay also said she was impressed with the performance of 1 500m runner Peter van der Westhuizen, who finished sixth in his heat and did not make the final. Van der Westhuizen travelled from his base in the US, arriving shortly before the start of the championships, and had to overcome the effects of jetlag.

ÔÇ£It was really difficult for him to adjust. Some of the athletes were there almost a week earlier to adjust and acclimatise to the environment,ÔÇØ Pillay said.