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SA duo look to shine

By Mark Etheridge

LJ Van Zyl and Peter van der Westhuizen will be flying the South African flag at Friday night’s IAAF Diamond League track and field meeting in Oslo, Norway.

And both are ready to roll, Van Zyl in the 400 metre hurdles and Van der Westhuizen in the men’s mile.

Van Zyl ran 49.59sec at the season-opening Diamond League meeting in Doha, Quatar last month but coach Hennie Kotze reckons his charge is in shape to dip under 49sec on Friday.

“I spoke to LJ last night when he was still waiting to hear about the lane draw. He’s really hoping for lane six or seven. He was busy doing some block starts etc and everything looks good to go. He didn’t have a great race in Doha with the windy conditions and made some mistakes in terms of stride pattern etc so we’ll be hoping that comes right tonight.”

It took until June last year for Van Zyl to dip under the 49sec mark but Kotze points out that 2010 is a fine balancing act. “With Commonwealth Games only in October it’s a long season and you don’t want to peak too soon. But on the other hand he needs to run quick times and get podium finishes to earn some money so we have to look at both sides.

“One thing’s for sure, he’ll be looking for a better start where he can keep up with the guys from the gun and then use his strong finish to good effect.”

Van Zyl will again be up against hardcore Americans Bershawn Jackson and Kerron Clement who both finished ahead of him in Doha. Jackson won on that occasion, clocking 48.60sec. It looks set to be another classic case of the Americans’ start against the South African’s finish.

In the mile, United States based Peter van der Westhuizen will be looking to put the stress of Shanghai firmly behind him. The former Kempton Park, Johannesburg athlete travelled halfway around the world to compete in the Chinese leg of the Diamond League series, only to run into visa problems and having to return to the States.

Father and coach Glen, reckons that Peter will be looking to run in the region of 3min 50sec.

At the moment his personal best stands at 3:56.26, run in Eugene, Oregon last year. Should his plan come together then Van der Westhuizen may well rewrite the record books on Friday. That’s because the current SA record of Johan Fourie stands at 3:50.82, set a long time back – 23 years ago to be exact – in Port Elizabeth.

ÔÇ£Everything will depend on whether the pace-setter does his job,” said Glen. “When he won a 1500m In Puerto Rico the pace-setter was way too slow. Peter then had to knock him out of the way and set the pace himself. This time Peter will pick up the pace during the third lap to tap the other athletes’ strength.ÔÇØ

Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop (3:32.22 over 1500m this year), Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Geremedhin (3:33.35) and Kenya’s Geo┬¡frey Rono (3:33.92) will be the ones to watch on Friday as Van der Westhuizen looks for a first lap of around the 55sec mark and then look to kick hard after three laps and then again at the 350mark

Earlier this week, Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena (SA) leapt to his season’s best in the long jump. Competing in Chanai, Greece, he soared to 8.15m for runners-up spot and his jump is the joint 12th best in the world this year. That means Mokoena has overtaken up and coming youngster Luvo Manyonga after the Boland athlete had leapt 8.05m in the Yellow Pages series.

Also in action this weekend will be Rene Kalmer, who has already qualified for the Commonwealth Games. She runs the 1500m in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday. She acted as pacemaker for a planned 5000m world record assault by Ethiopia’s Mesaret Defar in Hengelo last weekend.

“The pace-making went okay,” said Kalmer. “Unfortunately the weather was really awful, with rainstorms, wind and it was freezing. So the chances of a world record were a bit scarce. I went through 1km in 2min 47sec and I’m quite chuffed with that. It’s rather stressful to pace, especially for an athlete like Defar.

“It will be good to be back on African soil for the weekend. African winter is much better than European ‘summer’.

“I’m really looking forward to the 1500m. Training this week went really well. I’m just going to go out and have a good race. It will be a bonus if I can improve on the 4:07min I did in Doha. It’s just such a relief that I have already qualified for Commonwealth. It’s really nice being in Europe without that extra stress.”

World championships 3000m steeplechase finalist Ruben Ramolefi is also in action in Rabat but coach Hans Saestad has a few doubts. “I’d like him run in the region of 8min 20sec but he’s had a bit of a tendon problem and hasn’t trained at full capacity this week.”