Gert le Roux for the IAAF
A 39 member team with various talented young athletes has been selected to represent South Africa at the first IAAF Youth Championships to be held in Bydgoszcz, Poland, 16-18 July.
Amongst the best athletes are high jumper Jacques Freitag '82 (2.25m in the high jump), Nico Grimbeek '82 (7.77m in the long jump), Mandla Nkosi '82 (1:47.67 over 800m and 46.48 for 400m), Mark van Soest '82 (46.66 for 400m), Johan Cronje '82 (3:48.46 for 1500m); Girls - Zanelle Grobler '83 (4:20.52/1500m), Linda Roets '84 (9:23.5/3000m), Merize Theron '82 (13.29sec/100m Hurdles), Tanya Bloem '82 (49.10m/discus) and Delia Visser '83 (6.29m/long jump).
Freitag, 2.01m tall, jumped 2.25m at a fitness trial meeting in Pretoria on 1st July while Grimbeek won the long jump at the Botswana Championships in Gaborone on 4 July. Another team member, Samuel Montsitsi, finished third in 7.50m.
Freitag (2.20m) and Grimbeek (7.60m) set South African Youth records at the SA Junior Championships in April but both have now shown that much can be expected from them in Poland.
Zanelle Grobler won the 1500m gold medal at the Olympic Youth meeting in Moscow last year.
Jacques Freitag: The rising star of South African athletics
Gert le Roux for IAAF
Jacques Freitag, the tall South African schoolboy who jumped a world-class height of 2.25 metres at a special ASA fitness trial meeting in Pretoria last week, is destined to become a world star if history repeats itself in years to come. From statistics that I could delve from the archives, the 17-year-old Freitag has moved into a league of outstanding 17 year-olds, the likes of world record holder Javier Sotomayor of Cuba, Australian Tim Forsyth, Patrick Sjoberg of Sweden, Steve Smith of England, and Sergey Klyugin of Russia.
Sotomayor (31), who jumped an astonishing 2.33m at the same age, is the current world record holder with 2.45m and a winner of Olympic and two World Championship golds. He was also the first world junior champion in 1986.
Forsyth, who occupies 2nd place on a world all time under 18 list with a clearance of 2.29m in 1990, won the silver medal at the 1992 World Junior Championships, and bronze at Olympic and world senior championship level. He has a personal best of 2.36m (in 1997).
Klyugin, who improved to a personal best 2.38m in 1998, finished 5th at the 1992 world juniors.
Sjoberg, who jumped 2.26 metres at the age of 17 in 1982, went on to win the world crown in Rome in 1987 and three medals at the Olympic Games: silver in 1984 and 1992 and bronze in 1988. He has a personal best of 2.42m to his credit, a former world record.
Steve Smith, who also cleared 2.25m at the age of 17 in 1990, won the world junior title in 1992 while he also achieved best performances of 2.38m (indoors) and 2.37 (outdoors).
Jacques Freitag, who was born on 10th June 1982, is currently a scholar at Bronkhorstpruit, 50km east of Pretoria. He is 2.01m tall and emerged on the scene towards the end of 1998 when he jumped 2.08 metres. At the 1999 South African Junior Championships in April he won the title in the Under 18 age group establishing a new national youth record of 2.20 metres.
Nine days ago he won an international schools meeting in Germany with a height of 2.16 metres. Then, last Thursday (1 July), a day after his return from Europe, at a meeting to test the athletes' fitness for the World Youth Championships in Poland, he first equalled his personal best of 2.20m, then improved it to 2.22m and finally cleared 2.25m on his third attempt.
His coach of only a few months, Hugo Badenhorst, reckons the new junior star has unbelievable talent and a bright future ahead of him.
"If all goes well and he can remain injury free in years to come, he has the makings to become a real world star. Only time will tell," Badenhorst told me about three weeks prior to his 2.25m clearance.