Debutants led by The Rock

Thando Roto (center): Photo by Óskar González

Sub 10-second club member Thando ‘The Rock’ Roto will lead a contingent of eight South African athletes who will make their first world championships appearance at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in London. Three male sprinters, two female sprinters, one 800m female athlete and two female marathoners make up the group of debutants who could make their mark come race day.

Thando Roto enjoyed the season of his life and it looks like it was only the start. The sowing occured during the cold winter days and as every person deserves to reap the rewards of the sowing, why not Thando. I mean, his level of commitment was highly spoken of, he was consistent and when it was his time to shine came, he did exactly that. A wind-aided 9.99 second 100m at the Nkwalu Athletics meeting in February was only the start for the powerhouse who gave Akani Simbine the shock of his life with a 9.95 second place finish at the Gauteng North Athletics champs less than a month later. Since then he has enjoyed a successful European season that included a diamond league race and a few victories. He is well capable of making the 100m final and even if he is the under dog, keep an eye out for him. “This is only the beginning, so forward we go” said Roto before his departure to London.

He is joined by the African 200m champion Clarence Munyai who is also enjoying a breakthrough season. Setting a world 300m best and 200m African Championships record in the space of two weeks is an extraordinary achievement, so this 18-year-old should not be written off. And nor should Pieter Conradie, the 2017 South African 400m champion who stopped the clock at 45.15 at #FillUpPotch, a new personal best. The gutsy athletes’ fearless approach to racing makes him a force to be reckoned with and perhaps he can run into the history books by joining Wayde in the final of the men’s 400m in London.

From the 1-lap-event to the 2-lap 800m, imagine two South Africans in the women’s 800m final. It’s a big ask with the standard of the 800m through the roof, but Gena Lofstrand is not scared of anyone, or thing, for that matter. Making a comeback from a setbacks that lasted nearly three seasons, Gena is back to personal best shape. Dipping under 2 minutes was the goal, but a 2 minutes 1 second 800m season’s best was good for IAAF to consider the Durban-based athlete for a quota entry. She is joined by 400m specialists Ariane Nel and Zoe Engler under the same banner, but they will only compete in the women’s 4 x 400m. They will join Wenda Nel and Caster Semenya with high hopes of securing a medal for the team!

Jenna Challenor and Mapaseka Makhanya, meanwhile,  will make their world championships marathon debuts on Sunday 6 August at 14:00. For both these  ladies, it seems like all their setback were set ups for comebacks because two years ago they would not be included in this team. Both athletes were out injured, but through immense support from family and sponsors, they got back on track and qualified for the championships in London!

Six of these 8 athletes are under 25 and the marathoners are only at the start of their marathon careers, so things are looking promising concerning the future of the sport.

The 2017 IAAF World Championships kicks off tomorrow at 19:00 and all the action can be seen on SuperSport.

Written by Reggie Hufkie