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eThekwini, South AfricaTriple jumper Tumelo Thagane and distance runners Stephen Mokoka and Rene Kalmer stole the limelight at the South Africa Yellow Pages Senior Track and Field Championships in eThewkini over the weekend.
The two day event (20-21 March) was billed as a trial for the Africa Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, in July and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, in October. Several athletes just out of their junior ranks captured senior titles. Such was the intensity of the contest that only three athletes managed to win two individual titles.
Thagane breaks through 17m barrier in Triple Jump
After many years of showing potential, Thagane finally realised his dream of breaking the 17m barrier. The question was not if he would win, but by what margin would he prevail over the rest of the field. In his final attempt, Thagane had a legal jump of 17.05m to improve on his career best of 16.69m. Thagane is the second South African to surpass the 17m barrier after record holder Godfrey Khotso Mokoena (17.25m).
“Surely, I did not expect such a huge jump so soon,” Thagane said. “I was confident I would win which gave me a relaxed feeling and probably contributed to this huge jump. Now that my dream of a 17 metre jump has been achieved, I can set my sights on breaking the national record and winning some silverware in Nairobi and New Delhi.”
Still on the infield Mokoena prevailed in the Long Jump with a leap of 8.01m. “I feel a little tired after the World Indoor Championships barely a week ago. So I hope to improve my distances as the season unfolds,” said Mokoena.
1500/10,000m double for Mokoka...
The most thrilling event of the championships was the men’s 1500m where Stephen Mokoka prevailed. On Saturday in his heat he surprised his opponents with a sprint for the finish line to set a lifetime best of 3:42.81. Barely 45 minutes later he went on to win the 10,000m in a life time best of 28:18.54. Second placed Gladwin Mzazi (28:20.40) also ran a personal best.
It is the 1500m final on Sunday that had fans guessing who would win. The lead changed several times between Mokoka, Juan van Deventer, Parson Mgagane, Mthombisi Baloyi, Molefe Molefe, Windy Jonas, and Dumisani Hlaselo.
Coming into the home straight Van Deventer looked set to win. However Mokoka moved out to lane four and mounted his devastating sprint for the finish line to carry the day in a life time best of 3:38.55.
“There was a lot of shuffling and elbowing throughout the race and I did not want to trip over and fall,” Mokoka said. “So I had to run carefully. I hope this leg speed will carry me to a good position at the World Cross country Championships next weekend in Poland.”
... and 1500/5000m double for Kalmer
Fresh from her World indoor debut Rene Kalmer began her weekend by winning the 5000m (15:51.32). Then she returned on Sunday to claim victory in 1500m in 4:08.61. Such was the pace that Lebogang Phalula who as second recorded a career best of 4:11.10 from 4:12.34.
“The scorching heat was far too hot for me,” Kalmer said. “So I decided to run a tactical race. Running a marathon (She won her debut at the Soweto marathon last November) has given me enormous strength. I look forwards to fast times in the 5000m this year.”
Sunette Viljoen (63.45m) posted her best throw in the javelin this year. The World Student Games, Africa, and Commonwealth Games champion is certain about something. “This year I will break the 65.43m record I set at the World Student Games in Belgrade (Serbia) last year.”
Other notable performances came from Reuben Ramolefi (8:21.74) and Teboho Masehla (10:00.84) in the men’s and women’s 3000m steeplechase respectively and by Mapaseka Makhanya (2:04.07) and Tshamano Setone (13:45.71) in women’s 800m and men’s 5000m. Cornel Fredericks (49.70) won the 400m Hurdles. Ofentse Mogawane (45.91) and Namibian Tjipekapora Herunga (52.59) claimed titles in the men’s and women’s 400m.
Cindy Stewart who took the 100m and 200m titles in 11.57 and and 23.42, was the third double winner of the weekend. Although their efforts were wind assisted defending champions Simon Magakwe (10.22) and Thuso Mpuang (20.57) were worthy victors in 100m and 200m respectively.
Veteran hammer thrower Chris Harmse (73.54m) extended his streak to 15 national titles in a row, a record unprecedented in South African athletics history. “I hope to get up to 77 metres so that I am within the medal bracket at the Commonwealth Games,” said Harmse, who is also the Africa record holder in the event.