28 April 2017

South Africa: Olympic Athletic Stars Lead SA Rankings

Following the successful conclusion of the ASA senior track and field Championships in Potchefstroom last week, Athletics South Africa (ASA) on Thursday released the updated and latest version of the 2017 rankings.

All four of South Africa's track and field medallists at last year's Rio Olympics have started their 2017 campaigns with a bang, with Wayde van Niekerk (200m), Luvo Manyonga (long jump), Caster Semenya (400m and 800m) and Sunette Viljoen (javelin throw) settling at the top of the national lists in their respective disciplines as they enter the closing stages of the domestic season.

In the men's sprints, Akani Simbine (9.92) and 21-year-old Thando Roto (9.95) have both crashed through the sub-10 barrier in the 100m dash, with Gift Leotlela making it comfortably into the national senior Top 10 list with his 10.12 SA junior record.

Simbine, who has clocked five of the seven fastest 100m times in the world this year, has also joined world leader Van Niekerk under the 20-second mark in the 200m event with a 19.95 personal best.

Though Van Niekerk has not yet shown his cards in the 400m dash, he has displayed his class with a 19.90 career best in the half-lap sprint.

Showcasing the depth of talent among SA speedsters, alongside training partner and fellow teenager Leotlela, Clarence Munyai has also stuck up his hand in spectacular fashion, charging to a national junior half-lap record of 20.10 to settle for third place in the SA senior list.

The country's ability in the 200m event is clearly displayed in the latest International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ranking lists, which sees five SA men among the top six in the world.

Elsewhere on the track, the nation's top 400m hurdlers have opened the season in style, pushing each other on the domestic circuit, with four men having run under 49.60.

The competition is so tight that Cornel Fredericks (49.27), Le Roux Hamman (49.35), LJ van Zyl (49.52) and Constant Pretorius (49.57) are all within 0.30 of one another in the performance lists.

Manyonga, meanwhile, has twice broken the African long jump record this year in a discipline that is expected to produce fireworks throughout the 2017 campaign.

Manyonga (8.65m), Ruswahl Samaai (8.49m) and Zarck Visser (8.03m) have all leaped over eight metres this year, with former Olympic medallist Khotso Mokoena sailing beyond the mark with a best attempt of 8.05m on the international indoor circuit.

And after threatening to break through over the last couple of seasons, Orazio Cremona is spearheading what looks set to be a barrier-breaking season for the country's elite competitors in the shot put discipline.

Cremona's national lead of 21.12m, after becoming only the second SA man in history to go further than 21 metres, is followed in the rankings by Jaco Engelbrecht (20.63m) and junior prospect Burger Lambrechts (19.15m).

In the men's hammer throw, while veteran Chris Harmse has earned a remarkable 22nd consecutive national title, a change of tides seems to be on the horizon, with Tshepang Makhethe leading the SA rankings.

Makhethe (71.28m) and Harmse (70.53m) are closely followed by Renaldo Frechou (70.30m) in a highly competitive campaign.

Javelin thrower Rocco van Rooyen, who holds a season's best of 84.09m, could be set for a solo charge with the spear this year as the only SA man over 80 metres thus far.

On the road, elite SA race walkers have also shown impressive early form in the build-up to the IAAF World Championships in London in August, with Lebogang Shange (1:21:00) and Wayne Snyman (1:21:26) both dipping under 1:22:00, though their compatriots will need to find another gear to keep pace, with the duo lying more than seven minutes clear of their nearest rival in the rankings.

Among the women, Wenda Nel has perhaps been most successful on home soil this year, settling in first place in the national 400m Hurdles lists and third in the world rankings with a season's best of 55.16.

The World Championships finalist is also lying second in the national 200m (23.39) rankings and third in the flat 400m (52.78).

Rio Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya leads the SA lists in the 400m (51.60) and 800m (2:01.03) events, perhaps giving an indication of which distances she might focus on this season, while junior star Simonay Weitsz tops the 1 500m rankings (4:19.32) in an event dominated by athletes in the under-20 and u-18 age groups.

Javelin throw queen Sunette Viljoen has launched the spear more than eight metres further than the next best South African this season with a best heave of 63.49m, and she is again likely to carry the flag for local women on the international circuit in field events.

Other athletes, however, have also taken complete control of their disciplines.

New national record holder Letitia Janse van Vuuren is more than six metres clear at the top of the women's hammer throw ratings with her 63.82m effort, and Ischke Senekal has displayed her versatility by leading the shot put (16.97m) and discus throw (54.74m) lists.

While there remain concerns about a lack of depth among women race walkers, Anel Oosthuizen has again displayed good signs of things to come, already equalling her own national record of 1:34:49 to lead the SA rankings in the 20km walk by more than 11 minutes.

*All SA records are subject to standard ratification processes

Source: Sport24

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