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Back on track in PE

By Mark Etheridge

After the “boardroom ballet” of the past few months, South African athletics finally gets back on track with the opening fixture in the Yellow Pages Series in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.

After the country’s Olympic governing body SASCOC suspended Athletics South Africa for the handling of matters surrounding world 800-metre champion Caster Semenya, interim administrator Ray Mali and his board have attempted to steer athletics back on course.

Hopefully the country’s athletes can concentrate on what they do best tonight — and that’s striving for excellence.

Sadly, the meeting has been hit by a number of high-profile withdrawals and it’s hard to see too many mind-blowing performances first time out.

World 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and the country’s sole Beijing Olympics medallist Khotso Mokoena are both sidelined, as is national 3,000m steeplechase recordholder Ruben Ramolefi.

All three are members of SASCOC’s Opex squad for possible medallists at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Mulaudzi was a late withdrawal due a death in the family while Mokoena picked up a leg injury on the eve of the Aviva Indoor tournament in Glasgow Scotland last month.

“I’ve been training hard preparing for the world indoors but some things are beyond one’s control,” said Mulaudzi who says he’s looking forward to the next few Yellow Pages meetings.”

Said Mokoena: ┬áÔÇ£I thought I would have healed by now. Regrettably, I have to make a compromise due to the state of my leg and also respect my doctor’s advice,ÔÇØ said Mokoena.┬áÔÇ£I hope that by not putting myself under much pressure I will therefore heal quicker as I have a long season ahead.ÔÇØ

Ramolefi has withdrawn due to personal reasons.

Also absent from the action at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University track will be the in-from Juan van Deventer and Rene Kalmer, both of whom have only just got back from their record-breaking exploits on the European indoor circuit.

With a long season in store for athletes and the Commonwealth Games the highlight in October, many of the athletes are far from their best shape.

One athlete who is showing good form is Central Gauteng’s Tshamano Setone who goes off in the 5,000m.

He ran 13min 54.3sec in Germiston last week and if the infamous Port Elizabeth wind stays away he’ll be hoping to get somewhere near the 13:30 mark at the coastal venue.

The meeting also sees the return of the mile event which will bring back memories of some epic clashes down the years by the likes of Johan Fourie, Deon Brummer and Henning Gericke.

Brummer will no doubt be keeping a close eye on proceedings as his son, Dean will be one of the competitors.

The field events boast more established stars than the track equivalent, with national javelin champion Robert Oosthuizen taking on Hardus Pienaar and African junior champion Ulrich Damon. And man-mountain Burger Lambrechts is also making a return to action in the shot put, at the ripe old age of 36.

And defending Commonwealth Games discus champion Elizna Naude will also be looking for some early form ahead of the defence of her title in New Delhi later this year.

The second meeting of the Yellow Pages Series will be in Durban on Friday, 26 February, and the third in Potchefstroom on Thursday, 4 March.