Local athletes rewriting the record books


JOHANNESBURG – The earth shifted in South African athletics over the past week, entering a realm where the country’s track and field could be a world leader.

Wayde van Niekerk is already the pacesetter in the 400 metres, while Caster Semenya bosses almost every single event she takes on.

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Luvo Manyonga congratulating Gift Leotlela at the ASA Speed Series in Bloemfontein. Photo: Frikkie Kapp, BackpagePixCaster Semenya is pushing hard to get closer to the 800m world record. Photo: Mike Egerton, PA Wire

While the world has been salivating over the prospect of Semenya breaking Jarmila Kratochvílová’s world record of 1min 53.28sec, she has never openly stated she would go after it.

At last week’s Athletics SA (ASA) Speed Series in Potchefstroom, Semenya considered the prospect of breaking the oldest athletics world record.

Van Niekerk hopes to become the first man to dip below 43 seconds, something that would have been unthinkable two years ago.

Last weekend Luvo Manyonga made his claim for world dominance when he leapt to a new South African and African record of 8.62 metres.

It was the best jump since June 2009, and the strongest indication yet that Manyonga could fulfil his promise from a few years back that he would become the first man to leap over nine metres.

Browse the best times in 2017 so far, and you will see the South African flag proudly at the top of the lists in the 100m and 200m for both senior and junior men.

The ground shifted when Sokwakhana Zazini became only the second youth athlete ever to dip below 49 seconds in the 400m hurdles (84cm) when he set a new world best of 48.84.

World bronze medallist LJ van Zyl still holds the world youth record of 48.89 over higher (91cm) hurdles.

Last weekend, Thando Roto became the fifth South African to dip below the magical mark 10-second mark for 100m when he clocked 9.95.

Finishing second behind national record-holder Akani Simbine, it was the first time two South African men dipped below 10 seconds in the same race.

Simbine’s time of 9.92 was the fastest by a South African on home soil. South Africa have gone from zero sub-10s to 14 since Simon Magakwe broke through the barrier for the first time at the 2014 South African championships in Pretoria.

Records are falling at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up with the new generation of local athletes.

Three weeks ago, Simbine became only the seventh person ever to dip below 10 and 20 seconds in the 100m and 200m on the same day.

In the 200m race, Clarence Munyai broke Riaan Dempers’ dust-gathering junior record clocking a time of 20.10.

Last weekend his fellow Olympian and training partner Gift Leotlela broke Simbine’s junior 100m record, clocking 10.12.

Both Munyai and Leotlela have lofty goals in their sights for 2017, with the former hoping to become only the second junior athlete behind Usain Bolt to break through 20 seconds, with the latter targeting the world junior record of 9.97.

National women’s 100m record-holder Carina Horn hopes to become the first South African female to dip below 11 seconds.

Rikette Steenkamp is also looking to achieve a major milestone by becoming the second South African woman to post a sub-13 time in the 100m hurdles and break Corien Botha’s national record of 12.94.

South African athletics have finally caught up with the rest of the world in some events, and could become one of the global leaders if we can sustain the upwards curve.

The ground has shifted – let’s shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Saturday Star
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