By Mark Etheridge
Our Sunette Viljoen obviously took advantage of the national sporting spirit sweeping South Africa on the eve of Soccer World Cup 2010.
Competing at the Golden Gala Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday evening, the Commonwealth javelin champion finished runner-up behind world record holder Barbara Spotakova in a power-packed line-up.
Viljoen flung the projectile 63.04 metres, and her first four efforts were also all over the 60m mark, hugely encouraging for her.
She was the only South African on the programme and the two points picked up by her second spot, means she’s third in the Diamond League race after two of the seven meetings.
Spotakova is still the benchmark of women’s javelin throwing, as can be seen by the Czech Republic’s winning effort of 68.66m.
Only four women have thrown further than that mark and she also improved on the 10-year-old meeting record of 68.22m, held by another giant of javelin throwing, Trine Hattestad of Norway.
In other performances at the meeting that delivered some of the best overall quality track and field seen in years Asafa Powell blitzed the 100m in 9.82 as world recordholder Usain Bolt still recovers from an Achilles tendon injury.
An interesting aside was the performance of rising French sprint star Christophe Lemaitre who was out to run a sub-10 effort on the last night of his teenage years.
After having to run in brand new spikes after forgetting to pack his shoes for the night, he failed in that quest but was still able to clock 10.09 after a strong second half. Certainly one to watch.
Dwight Phillips set a 2010 world-leading 8.42m in the long jump (our Khotso Mokoena’s personal best is 8.50m) and Blanka Vlasic and Chaunte Howard-Lowe had a memorable high energy high jump battle as both matched the Golden Gala record of 2.03m set by our own Hestrie Els (nee Cloete) back in 2004.Vlasic took overall honours on the night.
American Walter Dix, 2008 Olympic 100/20m bronze medallist made a rousing comeback in his first big race in almost two years. Starting well, he was always in the lead and his 19.86 victory broke the 19.93 meeting record of sprint legend Michael Johnson, set 11 years ago.
And while the can “she-can’t she” saga over our Caster Semenya’s future participation in world athletics continued its farcical course this week, Morocco’s Halima Hachlaf was going about her business in the women’s 800m on Thursday. She had a great closing straight, passing Jenny Meadows (who was second behind Semenya at World Championships last year) and Janeth Jepkosgei to win in a personal best and season-leading 1:58.40sec.