General News

South Africa mines more gold in Santiago


Phil Minshull for the IAAF

21 October 2000 - South Africa is one of the world's largest gold producers and it has taken its talent at mining the mineral all the way to Chile.

High jumper Jacques Freitag started the extraction process earlier in the week and on Saturday it was the turn of discus thrower Hannes Hopley and 200metres runner Paul Gorries to find a rich vein.

The spectators in the Estadio Nacional were treated to the sight of Hopley and Gorries parading around the opposite sides of the track with the South African flag draped over their shoulders, after they won their respective events within seconds of each other.

However the two South Africans provided some striking contrasts with regards to their expectations and emotions.

Gorries expected to win whereas Hopley was a rank outsider and for much of the competition struggled with a lack of belief in what he was capable of. Gorries also said that the cool conditions inhibited what he was capable of, for Hopley the slight breeze proved perfect.

"When I got up this morning I looked out of the window and thought 'Oh God it's raining' but by the time I got here it was perfect conditions. Nevertheless I didn't expect to win," Hopley said.

"It wasn't until the fifth round that I thought I had a chance and then when I produced the throw that won," he added.

"I'm just proud to follow in the footsteps of Frantz Kruger," Hopley added, referring to the 1994 world junior champion and, more recently, the Sydney bronze medallist.

"But we are different types of thrower. Frantz is so big and has got such a large span that I call him 'Helicopter Arms'. I'm much smaller and much faster in the circle. The thing about this competition was that the first two are what you would call small guys, it goes to show that you don't have to be massive to throw the discus well. It's also about your head and your technique."

Hopley sent the discus out to 59.51 to break the 7-year old national junior record of Frits Potgeiter, the 1992 world junior silver medallist, and his winning mark was the second best in the history of the event.

Gorries was elated by his victory but felt he had still fallen short in clocking 20.64.

"I knew I could take gold because I was second on the rankings coming here. But I'm disappointed with the time. I thought I could possibly go as low as 20.20 but it's cold."

The chain of events on Saturday had been set off by a team talk given by Freitag after his Thursday triumph.

"Jacques stood up and gave a really inspiring speech about how we could all get gold. It motivated me and made me want to come out and do my best," Hopley said.

In turn Gorries was inspired by events in the discus circle.

"I could see what Hannes was doing when I walked out onto the track," Gorries added. "I was determined to do as well."

For the South Africans, their successes bring to a close a very long season.

Many of the team have been competing since the zenith of their domestic season back in March.

However a hamstring strain in the spring caused Gorries to take a break for a month, "Bizarrely, I think that it probably helped me because I came to Chile fresh."