South African Athletics resurgence set to continue in 2018


The resurgence in South African Athletics that caught the attention of the world since 2015 is set to continue in 2018. After garnering 3 medals at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015, it came as no surprise when the team doubled that tally in the 2017 version, bringing home three gold, one silver and two bronze medals. But it seems, though, that this was only the start of the athletics explosion in South Africa, so will we see a step-up in times and distances in 2018?

Team South Africa celebrated its most successful achievement at an IAAF World Championships when they climbed to third spot on the medal table with 6 medals in London last year. Wayde van Niekerk (400m gold, 200m silver), Caster Semenya (800m gold, 1500m bronze), Ruswahl Samaai (long jump bronze) and Luvo Manyonga (long jump gold) led the 27 member team with great success. Van Niekerk secured two medals in the most demanding way possible, running almost every single day from the start of the championships. And the same can be said about Semenya who had three 800m and 1500m races to deal with in a space of ten days. Samaai and Luvo, meanwhile, became the first South African duo to medal in the same event at the world championships when they leapt to gold and bronze in the men’s long jump. The boytjies from Paarl headed to London ranked number 1 and 2 in the world after jumping 8.65m (Manyonga) and 8.49m (Samaai) at #FillUpPotch, so winning medals was never a surprise. In fact, the other trio’s performances also fell under the same umbrella. Van Niekerk headed to London with a 30.81 300m world best while both Semenya and Manyonga had the world lead written next to their names.

Despite being beset by blunders and administrative issues, Anaso Jobodwana (2015 200m world champs bronze medalist) and the four medalists of 2017 rose to the occasion in the most crucial times, encouraging a group of young champions to grab the bull by the horns. We have seen the rise of Akani Simbine (9.89 100m, 19.95 200m), Thando Roto (9.95 100m), Carina Horn (11.06 100m), Gena Lofstrand (2.01 800m), Pieter Conradie (45.15 400m), Orazio Cremona (21.12m Shot Put), Antonio Alkana (13.11 100m hurdles), Clarence Munyai (20.10 200m), Gift Leotlela (20.20 200m), Lebogang Shange (1:19.18 20km race walk), Constant Pretorius (400m hurdles), Justine Palframan (22.84 200m), Tamzin Thomas (23.35 200m) and Alyssa Conley (22.84 200m). Throw in experienced campaigners LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles), Wenda Nel (400m hurdles), Jaco Engelbrecht (shot put), Sunette Viljoen (javelin throw), Victor Hogan (discus throw) and the exciting hammer-throw duo Tshepang Makhete and Phil-Mar Janse van Rensburg, and the South African team will once again be force to reckon with at any major competition.

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (CWG) kick off on 4 April and by the looks of it, more history is to be made. In 2010 in Delhi, the track and field team bagged five medals, four years later they returned home with nine, and in 2018…well, let’s just say ‘expect the unexpected’. Oozing with confidence, the current crop of stars not only encompass fearless grit, they also lack nothing in ability. South Africa’s chances of filling up the podium in the 100m looks very good with medal hopefuls Roto, Jobodwana, and Simbine lining up; also expect something special from the Port Elizabeth-based Luxolo Adams in the 200m who snitched a victory from Jobodwana in December 2017. Palframan and Horn are also in very good positions to make the finals in the women’s short sprint races, and as you know, anything can happen in a final. Viljoen, a two-time CWG gold and silver medalist, in retrospect, return to the field in Australia with hopes of getting her third piece of gold around her neck. She will be joined by powerhouses Engelbrecht and Cremona who, if they can replicate their #FillUpPotch performances or at least make the final, are capable of winning medals or at least finish in the top five. Add to the list Manyonga, Samaai, Semenya (double), Shange, Alkana, Poole (yes Breyton’s 2.25m jump would have placed him third four years ago), Hogan, Wenda Nel and the relay teams, and we have far surpassed the best performance by a South African athletics team at these games.

Written by Reggie Hufkie