Mokoena chasing Olympic spot

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Khotso_Mokoena1 Wessel Oosthuizen Khotso Mokoena.

Olympic long jump silver medalist Khotso Mokoena will try to book his place in the London Olympic Games at the Doha Diamond League meeting on Friday.

Mokoena, South Africa's only medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, must go beyond the 8.20 metres standard to cement his place in South Africa's Olympic team.

The Doha meeting will be the first major international event where athletes have the opportunity to qualify for the Games starting at the end of July.

Mokoena reached the qualifying distance for the first time at the final Yellow Pages meeting in Pretoria in April with a jump of 8.29 metres.

While he seemed to struggle to find form earlier in the season, his coach Hansie Coetzee said he did not want his charge to hit the straps prematurely.

“We are taking it gradually and we only want to start doing our thing by July,” Coetzee said in the build-up to the European season.

“We didn't really sharpen before the South African championships.

“We wanted to qualify once in South Africa so that we can carry on in a relaxed way, but we weren't in a rush (to qualify).”

The 25-year-old failed to make the final at last year's IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

However, his jump of 8.29m could have secured him the bronze medal at the championships.

It is also the second best jump of the season behind Briton Greg Rutherford, who equaled Chris Tomlinson's British jump record of 8.35m last week.

Mokoena will receive the opportunity to wrestle the number one position from Rutherford when they line-up in Doha. Tomlinson will also be in the field.

Finnish jumper Tommi Evila and Aleksandr Menkov of Russia are the only other athletes in the field to have gone beyond eight metres this season with distances of 8.08m and 8.28m respectively.

Coetzee said they had taken a different approach to competitions since Mokoena dropped out of the world championships.

“We are taking a totally different approach. We are not looking at names after Daegu, because it will only put pressure on you,” he said.

“We will be going for distances, so the guy who wants to win will have to jump that distance or improve on it.

“So we are thinking in terms of distance and not in terms of names.”

South African 3000m steeplechase record holder Ruben Ramolefi will also try to dip below the qualifying time of 8:23.10 for a second time.

Ramolefi set the first of two qualifying standards at last year's World Championships when he posted a time of 8:11.50 in the heats.

He came close to reaching the second qualifying standard when he won this year's South African senior championships in Port Elizabeth in a time of 8:24.48.

The time he set in Port Elizabeth was the seventh fastest of the season internationally.

Ramolefi will line-up against Kenyan Olympic gold medalist Brimin Kipruto, while Paul Kipsiele Koech and Richard Mateelong, also from Kenya, will be in the field. – Sapa


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