South Africa: Athletes On Fire in Nigeria

Nigeria's Joy Udo-Gabriel qualified for the 100m event at the Asaba Athletics Champs

Defending champions South Africa enjoyed a spectacular afternoon session on Day 2 of the CAA African Senior Championships in Asaba, Nigeria on Thursday.

Producing dominant performances, the squad earned double podium places in three events.

In perhaps the most exciting battle of the day, Ruswahl Samaai defended his continental long jump title in style, retaining the crown he lifted in Durban two years ago.

Samaai's best leap landed at 8.45m to edge out world champion Luvo Manyonga by just two centimetres, with his countryman taking the silver medal.

"We're competitors but at the end of the day we try to back each other up," Samaai said of their friendly rivalry. "We focus on showing the world what South Africa is about and what our brotherhood is about."

Manyonga was full of praise for Samaai, who had taken a back seat at recent major championships.

"He didn't come here to play. He came here to defend his African title and he did that very well," Manyonga said. "He's been consistent throughout the year and I'm happy for him."

In another hard-fought contest held in hot and humid conditions, Commonwealth Games champion Akani Simbine added the African 100m title to his career tally, winning gold in 10.25 seconds.

"I came out this year wanting to win the Commonwealth and continental titles, and I ticked them both off, so it's been a great year for me and I'm really excited ahead of the next couple of seasons," said Simbine, who qualified for next month's IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava with his victorious effort.

Former SA record holder Simon Magakwe also did well, recovering from a poor start to grab the bronze medal in 10.35. "I stumbled at the start but I did not give up and I managed to catch them," Magakwe said. "I pushed hard and I'm happy with a podium place."

In the men's discus throw, Victor Hogan and Werner Visser added another double to the national team's haul. Hogan produced a 60.06m heave to secure a convincing victory, while Visser earned silver with a 58.82m attempt.

Building on her fine form this season, Rikenette Steenkamp stepped on the podium in the 100m hurdles final, taking the silver medal in 13.18. "I didn't have the best start and I hit a hurdle, but it was a good race and I'm happy to have achieved my goal," Steenkamp said.

World junior champion Kayle Blignaut was also in superb form, taking a podium spot in the men's shot put in the absence of countryman Orazio Cremona who tore a calf muscle during the warm-up before the final. Blignaut delivered a best throw of 19.05m to earn the bronze medal.

In other finals, Jodie Sedres finished fifth in the women's pole vault (3.70m), Tebogo Mamatu was sixth in the women's 100m contest (11.73) after battling with a hamstring niggle and Margo Coetzee ended sixth in the Hammer Throw Women (58.86m).

In preliminary rounds, Thapelo Phora (men) and Caster Semenya (women) won their 400m semi-finals, while Cornel Fredericks and Le Roux Hamman were second and third respectively in their 400m hurdles heats, with all four athletes progressing to the finals of their events.

The SA men's 4x100m team won their heat in 39.07, booking their place in the relay final.

"It's been a pleasant day for us as a country, raking in eight medals on the second day," said Aleck Skhosana, the president of Athletics South Africa.

"It allows us to breathe a little. We now look forward for a continuing battles tomorrow to take a chance for more medals and for others to fight for places in the finals in the various events we are represented.

"Thank you to all athletes, coaches and support staff for rising above everything else to offer excellent performances."


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