By Mark Etheridge
First places to Wayde van Niekerk and Orazio Cremona cemented a solid performance by the South African track and field contingent at Wednesday night’s IAAF World Challenge event in Dakar, Senegal.
The meeting was just one of many being used by the South Africans as build-up to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia later this year.
Eight South Africans took part and Van Niekerk and Cremona won the 400-metre and shot put events respectively.
Free State’s Van Niekerk won the 400m in 46.45sec to take gold while Cremona had yet another throw in excess of 20m, his 20.32m effort good enough for gold on a sweltering Senegal evening.
Van Niekerk’s win saw him beating double Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist Angelo Taylor into second spot (46.80).
But running from lane six meant that the youngster saw very little of his rivals. Troubled by hamstring injuries last year and again earlier this year, Van Niekerk was happy with his race.
“I was a bit worried about it the day before but when I warmed up before the race I felt I stood a chance of winning so I was positive. The hammy played mind games with me during the race but I pulled through all fine,” Van Niekerk told Road to Rio 2016 from Portugal on Thursday as he was en route back to his Italian training base.
“It was definitely the hottest weather that I’ve ever run in. Now I go back to Gemona for more training and then my next meeting is 27 June in Ostrava where I’ll run the 400m again.”
Next best in terms of┬á podium places was Pretoria long jumper Lynique Prinsloo whose 6.39m was good for second while coach Stephan Louw’s other long jumper, Carla Marais took fourth in 6.10m.
Former multiple age-group 400m hurdles champion Wnda Nel (n├®e Theron) took fourth in this event with a 57.23 clocking.
The middle-distance athletes took a hammering in the heat and humidity with Mapaseka Makhanya fifth in the women’s 3000m (9:08.87) and Juan van Deventer, chasing a spot on Team SA for World Championships, took eighth in the 1500m in 3:40.83.
And Cremona’s fellow shot-putter Jaco Engelbrecht was sixth in 18.76.
Meanwhile, in Nijmegen, Netherlands Jerry Matsau won a 1500m event in 3:38, with an impressive 54-second last lap.