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Berlin in athletes’ sights

The country’s top track and field athletes will be using the weekend’s South African Championships in Stellenbosch as a platform to launch a major assault on qualifying times for the World Championships in Berlin from 15-23 August.

To date, just four athletes have attained IAAF ‘A’ status and are thus automatic choices for the trip to Germany.┬á

The four athletes to have reached the ‘A’ standard for 2009 are the sole medallist from the Beijing Olympics, Khotso Mokoena (long jump), Sunette Viljoen (javelin), Ruben Ramolefi (3,000m steeplechase) and Janice Josephs (long jump).

It will be remembered that at these Nationals last year, Mokoena was surprisingly beaten in the long jump by Keenan Watson, but he will be desperate to put the record straight at Coetzenburg this time round. However, also lying in wait will be the Senegalese jumper, Ndiss Kaba Badje, who was sixth in the Olympic final with 8.16m (Mokoena leapt 8.24m, but has been below that form so far this season).

Elsewhere, there is strong competition. The men’s and women’s sprints see the likes of Thuso Mpuang, Kagiso Kumbane, Hannes Dreyer, Leigh Julius and Thabo Mathibedi battling it out for bragging rights, while the women’s sprints seem a straight fight between Tsholofelo Thipe and Isabel le Roux.

In the women’s 800m, Caster Semenya looks like she has the most potential since the likes of Zelda Botes, Ilse de Kock and Ronelle Roodt and Semenya will be attempting to become just the fifth South African woman to dip under 2min. Last week at the Yellow Pages Series meeting in Germiston she became the fifth fastest South African woman over the distance with a time of 2:00.58.

In the men’s 800m, Olympian Mbulaeni Mulaudzi is the out and out favourite and he looks likely to justify that tag, though he’ll have the young pups like Samson Ngoepe, Adriaan van Wyk and Andre Olivier snapping at his heels, along with the old campaigner,┬á Hezekiel Sepeng.

At the Olympics in Beijing Juan van Deventer announced himself as a probable 1500m star of the future and many are tipping this Johannesburg student to be the best ‘miler’ since the days of Johan Landsman and Johan Fourie. That’s some compliment.

In other field events Janice Josephs, Janus Robberts, Sunette Viljoen, Robert Oosthuizen and Elizna Naude can all produce outstanding performances.

Josephs, after her 6,75m jump in the long jump in Port Elizabeth, seeks another top-rate performance. Robberts, with his 20,20m in the shot put at the same track in the Yellow Pages Series, needs only a further 10 centimetres to qualify for Berlin. Naude’s recent performances in the discus suggested that a throw of over 60m is on the cards while the young Oosthuizen, on his home track, will want to go over 80m in the javelin.

The programme at Coetzenburg Stadium starts at 10am on Friday and 6am on Saturday.