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National glory a 'soothing feeling' for Wayde van Niekerk

Athletics

POTCHEFSTROOM - Winning the South African 200m title in a world-leading time justifies the decision for Wayde van Niekerk to go for the double at the IAAF World Championships in London later this year.

Racing against one of the best fields ever assembled in the half-lap sprint at the championships, Van Niekerk posted a new personal best of 19.90 seconds.

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Wayde van Niekerk won the mens 200m final in 19.90 seconds at the n ational athletics championships on Saturday. Photo: Roger Sedres/BackpagePix

“It is such a soothing feeling knowing I put down a solid time and also getting my revenge for Friday (finishing second in the 100m final) also feels quite good,” Van Niekerk said after shaving 0.05sec off his previous best.

Van Niekerk once again highlighted his class as he ran a superb bend to leave the season’s early pace-setter Akani Simbine and promising juniors Clarence Munyai and Gift Leotlela in his wake.

Simbine finished second behind the 400m world record-holder in a time of 20.15sec with Leotlela following in third place in 20.20sec.

Defending champion Munyai narrowly missed out on a podium place as he dipped at the line in a time of 20.25secs.

“We’ve built some good relationships among another, Clarence and I had some banter the last few weeks saying how quick his bend was so I tried my best to prove him wrong,” Van Niekerk said.

“I think that was the main aim today - to beat Clarence around the bend - then with Akani, knowing what he can do, I just tried my best to maintain that bend.”

Continuing to shift barriers, Olympic long jump silver medallist Luvo Manyonga extended his national and continental record with an 8.65m opening jump.

The new record comes a month after he improved Khotso Mokoena’s 8.40m mark by 22 centimetres.

“This is how it feels to be a champ, it is special and it looks like it is now an everyday thing where it is an African record on the first jump,” Manyonga said.

“Finally I got the gold medal but there is more coming, the focus wasn’t on the SA champs, it is on the bigger picture which is the world championships. It is my record and I will be the person to break it again.”

Further confirming South Africa’s class in the long jump, Rio Olympics finalist Ruswahl Samaai claimed second place with a new personal best of 8.49m.

Samaai conceded his title but still managed to improve his life-time best by 11cm with Zarck Visser completing the podium with an attempt of 8.03m.

“We can forget about Rio, my main focus is world championships and going forward, I am speechless, I am feeling good,” Samaai said.

“I always knew, the only thing that will keep me out of major medals would be injury, and we saw at last year’s Olympics I was injured and couldn’t perform.

"This year I just hope and pray everything will fall into place.”

Saturday's jump put Manyonga into 11th place on the all-time performers list, getting him within a ruler’s length of Mike Powell of America’s world mark of 8.95m from 1991.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya won the 400-800m double, retaining the titles she won a year ago.

Semenya dipped at the line in the 400m sprint in a time of 51.60 seconds with Justine Palframan in second with 52.57secs, and Sonja van Tonder third in 54.66secs.

Racing her specialist two-lap event for the first time this year, Semenya had former training partner Gena Lofstrand and Anuscha Nice breathing down her neck over the first lap-and-a-half.

Semenya put her foot down over the final 150 metres crossing the line in a time of 2:01.03 with Lofstrand posting a new personal best of 2:03.32 with Nice crossing in 2:05.88.

“I would have preferred dipping below two minutes but I still have the South African Student Championships where I can do that, while I will play around with the speed in the 400m,” Semenya said.

“I am quite happy with where I am now so I am not worried what will happen in Doha, Oregon or at the world champs. I am just worried about my training at the moment.”

Caster Semenya on her way to winning the women's 400m at ASA Championships. Photo: Roger Sedres/BackpagePix

Alyssa Conley successfully defended her 100 and 200m titles, winning the short sprints time of 22.94 seconds in the half-lap event and 11.41secs in the 100m.

Earning a ticket to the world championships, Orazio Cremona produced a mammoth personal best heave of 21.12 metres in the men’s shot-put.

Weekend Argus

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