Double world record holder Michael Johnson lived up to his promise of running a sub 44 seconds in the 400 metres, at the finals of the Engen Summer series at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa.
Accelerating with 180 metres to the finish, Johnson powered his way to a 43.90 victory in his first race since setting the World Record at the World Championships in Seville, Spain, last August.
"I felt very good about the race. I am in great shape right now. I believe l can get a lot better. In fact, l believe l am also capable of cracking the 43 seconds in the 400 metres, and improving on my 19.32 World Record in the 200 metres.
"However my main objective this year, is to retain my Olympics 400m and 200m titles. This is a long season with the Olympics in late September. That is what is going to occupy my mind as l go back home to resume training for the rest of the season. There is still a long journey ahead," said Johnson before he rushed to the airport to catch an overnight flight to Atlanta.
Africa Junior 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (South Africa) can finally claim he has the ability to hold his own at senior international competition. He completed a hat trick by winning the 800m in a career best of 1:45.78.
He has improved his career best each time he has set foot on the track during the Engen series. In Pietersburg (March 18), he bettered his best by 0.06 second to 1:46.57. In Pretoria (March 24) he covered the distance in 1:45.99. Although he is well inside the Olympic A category qualifier of 1:46.30, he will have to achieve Athletics South Africa’s 1:45.60 in August.
"That is not a problem for me. All ASA (Athletics South Africa) needs to do, is create the opportunity to compete in Europe as our season track season ends next month. I am not afraid of competing against athletes with big names in this event.
"In fact l liked the race in Pretoria and here because the Kenyans Joseph Mutua and Kennedy Kimwetich set fast paces of sub 51 seconds for the first lap. I do not run good times when the first lap is covered in 53 seconds," said Mulaudzi who stays just behind the front runner and unleashes a telling kick in the last 250 metres of the race.
"This young man (Mulaudzi) is very courageous and should be taken seriously. Many of the great Kenyan 800m runners were not as fast as he is when they were 19 or 20 years old. He has a promising future and I hope he makes it to the Olympics," said Kimwetich.
Stella Tsikouna (discus) and Alexandros Papadimitriou (hammer) became the first Greeks to ever make an impact in athletics on African soil. Tsikouna won the women’s discus with an Olympic qualifier of 62.54m. Papadimitriou ended the Hungarian dominance of the men’s hammer throw over the last three years in this series with a throw of 79.95m.
However, runner up Chris Harmse (South Africa) was the main beneficiary of the intense competition, as he improved the African record on African soil for the seventh time in two years. His throw of 77.92m erases the 76.71m mark he set on February 18 in Stellenbosch. What’s more he eclipsed Australian Stuart Randell’s mark 77.68m during this series in Pietersburg on March 18, to become the Commonwealth Record holder.
Two months of warm weather training in Potchefstroom paid dividends to a number of European athletes. The Hungarian hammer throwers had their consolation when Katalin Divos won the women’s hammer and improved her national record to 66.40m. She regained the Africa all-comers record. The previous mark of 65.37m was set by Britain’s Lorraine Shaw in Stellenbosch on February 18.
Though winners in their respective events British athletes Mick Hill and Anthony Whiteman were on either side of the British Olympics qualifying standards. Stepping out of the shadows Hill won the men’s javelin in an Olympics qualifier of 83.78m.
The affable Whiteman won the men’s 1500m in 3:36.39. He was well inside the Olympic A-category qualifier of 3:36.80. However, the Commonwealth bronze medallist still has some ground to cover as he was 0.39 seconds shy of the British Olympic qualifier of 3.36.00.
South Africans Matthew Quinn and Heide Seyerling crowned their domestic season with solid victories over their Nigerian opponents. Quinn came from behind to win the men’s 100m in 10.19. Nigerians Sunday Emmanuel (10.30) and Nnamdi Anusim (10.30), and Mauritian Stephand Buckland (10.42) followed in that order.
"I congratulate Engen Petroleum and Athletics South Africa for staging such a well organised international series. We in Nigeria are a major oil producing nation in the world, and l feel that if we can get our act together, there is no reason why we cannot stage such international events. Such a meeting will benefit the whole of Africa as we will contribute to building an African track and field circuit of high international standard," said Emmanuel.
Seyerling got off to a blistering start and held off the fast finishing Ami Mbacke Thiam (Senegal) and Fallilat Ogunkoya (Nigeria), to win the women’s 400 metres in 51.00. Thiam, a bronze medallist at the All Africa Games, edged pre-race favourite Ogunkoya to take second place. Thiam clocked 51.26 to Ogunkoya’s 51.32.
"I am satisfied that my domestic season has gone well. Now l go back to train hard before competing in Europe in June or July. Besides the Olympics, l want to try some time to better the South African record," said Seyerling. With a career best of 50.91, she has quite some ground to cover before she can better Myrtle Botham’s 50.12 mark.
"This trip has been beneficial as it has given me an indication of where l am in preparation for the Olympics. This will probably be my last Olympics and so l want to give it my all and possibly improve on the African record of 49.10 which helped me win a bronze medal in Atlanta," said Ogunkoya.
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
1 Matthew Quinn (South Africa) 10.19
2 Sunday Emmanuel (Nigeria) 10.30
3 Nnamdi Anusim (Nigeria) 10.30
1 Patrick van Balkom ( Holland) 20.40
2 Paul Gorris (South Africa) 20.50
3 Andre Morris (USA) 20.50
1 Michael Johnson (USA) 43.90
2 Arnaud Malherbe (South Africa) 45.30
3 Hendrik Mokganyetsi (South Africa) 45.70
4 Marcus la Grange (South Africa) 45.80
1 Chris Phillips (USA) 13.48
2 Igor Kovac (Slovakia) 13.60
3 Shaun Bownes (South Africa)13.74
400m Hurdles A:
1 Llewellyn Herbert (South Africa) 49.15
2 Torrence Zellner (USA) 49.48
3 Tibor Bedi (Hungary) 49.77
4 Hennie Botha (South Africa) 50.04
5 Willie Smit (Namibia) 50.13
6 Pedro Rodrigues (Portugal) 50.17
400m Hurdles B:
1 Martin Willemse (South Africa) 50.49
2 Barend Kotze (South Africa) 50.75
3 Jean Paul Bruwer (Belgium) 50.76
1 Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (South Africa) 1:45.78 PB
2 Werner Botha (South Africa) 1:45.86 PB
3 Shaun Bownes (South Africa) 1:46.13
4 Joseph Mutua (Kenya) 1:46.76
1 Anthony Whiteman (Britain) 3:36.39
2 Julius Achon (Uganda) 3:38.20
3 Esau Faro (South Africa) 3:40.52
1 Petrus Sithole (South Africa) 8:34.22
2 Simon Mayisela (South Africa) 8:38.11
3 Johannes Ndala (South Africa) 8:51.85
1 Shadrack Hoff (South Africa) 13:33.43
2 Solomon Khambule (South Africa) 13:34.96 PB
3 Enos Matalane (South Africa) 13:39.45 PB
4 Richard Mavuso (South Africa) 13:46.87
1 Jacques Freitag (South Africa) 2.25
2 Antony Idiata (Nigeria) 2.25
3 Jaco Joubert (South Africa) 2.15
1 Tim Lobinger (Germany) 5.80
2 Lawrence Johnson (USA) 5.70
3 Okkert Brits (South Africa) 5.60
1 Mick Hill (Britain) 83.78
2 Gregor Hogler (Austria) 80.71
3 Erik Rags (Latvia) 80.36
1 Frantz Kruger (South Africa) 63.66
2 Frits Potgieter (South Africa) 61.51
3 Robert Fazekas (Hungary) 59.30
1 Burger Lambrechts (South Africa) 20.30
2 Karel Potgieter (South Africa) 19.33
3 Saulis Kleiza (Lithuania) 18.70
1 Alexandros Papadimitriou (Greece) 77.95
2 Chris Harmse (South Africa) 77.92 (Africa record)
3 Tibor Gecsek (Hungary) 76.59
4 Adrian Annus (Hungary) 73.49
5 Zsolt Nemeth (Hungary) 73.30
1 Wendy Hartman (South Africa) 11.65
2 Aida Diop (Senegal) 11.68
3 Janice Joseph (South Africa) 11.78
1 Heide Seyerling (South Africa) 51.00
2 Fallilat Ogunkoya (Nigeria) 51.26
3 Ami Mbache Thiam (Senegal) 51.26
1 Surita Febbraio (South Africa) 56.04
2 Kerry van Zyl (South Africa) 58.39
3 Lana van Heerden (South Africa) 60.21
1 Brigette Muhlbacher (Austria) 4:13.13
2 Rene Kalmer (South Africa) 4:13:45
3 Lwiza John (Tanzania) 4:14.42
1 Zita Ajkler (Hungary) 6.31
2 Liesal Heyneke (South Africa) 6.13
3 Ria Fourie (South Africa) 6.00
1 Hestrie Cloete (South Africa) 1.90
2 Marisca Gertenbach (South Africa) 1.86
3 Nele Zilinskiene (Lithuania) 1.86
3 Viktoria Slivka (Russia) 1.86
1 Stella Tsikouna (Greece) 62.54
2 Elizna Naude (South Africa) 55.70
3 Nkiru Ojiego (Nigeria) 53.00
1 Katalin Divos (Hungary) 66.40 Africa Open record.
2 Elmarie Knoetzen (South Africa) 58.35
3 Maralize Englebrecht 50.58