He may already have turned 30 but Ruben Ramolefi is in the prime of his athletic life and he turned in the performance of his life on the final day of the Yellow Pages South African Senior Championships in Stellenbosch.
After Beijing silver medallist Khotso Mokoena had rescued things on the opening day, Ramolefi produced the stand out performance, breaking the national record in the 3,000m steeplechase in the process.
Ramolefi is in one of the most hotly-contested disciplines of all; Kenyans virtually hold the┬á steeplechase copyright and in Beijing last year the South African was never in the hunt. However, in Stellenbosch he clocked a fine 8min 16.07sec. Not only did it eclipse Whaddon Niewoudt’s mark from 1992 but it was also the first time in three years that we have seen a national record at these championships.┬á
Afterwards Ramolefi admitted he was targeting the record – ÔÇ£when I came here I was only focused on an 8:15 time but I needed proper focus throughout, thank God.ÔÇØ
Perhaps the most dramatic of the finals on the last day was that in the men’s 400m hurdles, when odds-on favourite LJ van Zyl hit the last hurdle while looking like a winner, and was unable to recover.
The race went to Wouter le Roux in 49.96, which was 0.71sec outside the required IAAF ‘A’ standard for August’s World Championships in Berlin. Runner-up was Boland’s Cornel Fredericks with Pieter Koekemore third and Van Zyl fourth.
Simon Magakwe, the fastest male in the country, won the 100m with a moderate 10:32 but minutes later, the judges upheld a false start objection and ruled that the race had to be run again.┬á
The second attempt saw the country’s finest speedsters running shoulder to shoulder for much of the straight. The screaming crowd couldn’t believe their eyes when the Carltonville based youngster not only repeated the earlier result but went one further and also carded a World Championship qualifying time of 10:21. The poetic justice brigade may well have said that the blindfolded lady with the sword and the scale had prevailed as the complete result remained the same, only with quicker times. Thuso Mpuang (AFS) was second in 10:27 followed by Kagiso Kumbane (AFS) on 10:32.┬á
Olympian, Juan van Deventer may be the man for the big occasion with his sixth place in the 1,500 metres final but Johan Cronje (AFS) who has had a less than successful season so far, proved that it is consistency that counts on the home front. He overtook Van Deventer with metres remaining to win in 3:36:48.┬á
Van Deventer (CGA) will now have to head overseas if he wants to line up in Berlin. The bronze medal went to Pharson Magagane (Limp) with a time of 3:37:79.┬á
Potchefstroom is arguably the javelin capital of the country with all three medallists coming from Central North West. First was Sunette Viljoen (59.92), then Tazmin Britz (53.44) and Rencia Fourie (49.42).┬á
Ruan de Vries (AGN) became the new SA Champion by winning the 110┬á
metre hurdles in 13:78 beating the “Senior Citizen” of athletics, Shaun Bowens (13:81) and Hennie Kotze (ACNW) 14:20.┬á
The name Tumelo Thagane may not be well known even beyond the end of his street but the grade 11 pupil from Central North West made sure it won’t be forgotten by the record books when he won the triple jump with a leap of 16.44. Local lad, Luvo Maniyonga (Boland) bagged the silver with his team mate Elmarco Mathews taking third with 15:42.┬á
It required a “jump off” to determine the winner of the women’s high jump, with Rene van der Merwe (AGN) winning with a moderate height of 1.8 metres, Marizca Gertenbach (CGA) occupied the second wrung of the podium with defending champion, Anika Smit (AGN) relegated to the bronze.┬á
There was no fairy tale ending for Friday’s surprise long jump champion, Delia Smith, as she could only manage a sixth place in the triple jump. Patience Ntshingila (ACNW) won gold with a leap of 12.87, followed by Selloane Tsoaeli (Lesotho) 12.69 and Cindy Peters (CGA) 12.50.