By Mark Etheridge
Our Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was the pick of the South African athletes in action at Thursday night’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.
On a night where sprint superstar Usain Bolt announced his return to the track after an injury break with a “casual” 9.82 win in the 100-metre dash, Mulaudzi was improving his season-best to 1min 43.58 in the 800m.
Muluadzi, world 800m champion, was himself hampered by injury a few weeks back after a training ground clash, but has since bounced back well with some fine returns in New York and Madrid.
Last night, despite lying well as the field hit the home straight, he was unable to prevent young Kenyan star David Rudisha powering on to a 1:43.25 win. Rudisha’s Kenyan teammate Alfred Yego took third in 1min 43.97. “The plan was for him to be ahead of Rudisha at 600m but obviously that didn’t work out,” said manager Peet van Zyl.
“But still, you can’t be unhappy with a season’s best. He’ll head back to Grosetto in Italy now and prepare for Monaco near the end of the month.”
Multiple SA 1500m champion Johan Cronje is still finding his feet after an extended break because of injury but it certainly doesn’t look like he’s been out for long.
In what was an even-paced affair on the whole, he was up with the pace early on before settling back for the middle stages. The field went through the 800m mark in 1:52.90 and Cronje produced a confident finish around the final bend and down the main straight to end seventh. His time of 3:35.24, in only his second race of the year, is the fastest by a South African in 2010.
Last week in Madrid he clocked a hand-time of 3:37.3. “It may have not been the best race in Lausanne but the main thing is that I qualified for Commonwealth Games and that was the objective tonight.”
Up front another of the production line of Kenyan talent, Nicholas Kemboi, ran the best time in the world this year, winning in 3:31:52.
Cronje went on to say a change of tactics was on the cards: “Next race I’ll be much more aggressive. I thought my first lap was fine, but then I was too soft and let people pass and cut in front of me. Before I knew it I was too far behind. Now I’m preparing for a fast time in August. But I think I have another second or two in me with the current form I’m in.”
Also in action last night were Rene Kalmer and Ruben Ramolefi in the 3000m and 3000m steeplechase respectively.
Some slow pace-making early on saw Kalmer right up there but as the pace increased and the field went through 1000m in 2:54 she fell back.
The 2000m mark went by in 5:51 and Kalmer was unable to make an impression in the final stages as she ended up placing 15th in 8:59.48. Little Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya certainly made an impression though as the Berlin world champion clocked a meeting record of 8:34.58.
Ramolefi looked out of sorts in the steeplechase, won in a season’s best of 8:01:62 by Kenyan Brimin Kipruto. Ramolefi, who boasts a best of 8:11, withdrew midway through the race.
“Ruben doesn’t look 100%,” said coach Hans Saestad Friday. “I think his foot injury is still playing up and I know he’s missed a bit of training. He’s scheduled to run the next Diamond League meeting in Gateshead (Saturday) but looking at how he ran in Switzerland, he may be better off coming home.
“There was none of that usual aggressive start from him and there’s definitely something missing.”
Also in action on Thursday was Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius and there was delight for the Paralympian hero as he clocked 46.02, a personal best for the 400m, in a race in Celle Ligure, Italy.