Johannesburg - With another solid performance under her belt, 400m hurdler Wenda Nel hopes to cap a fine season with a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Nel, who became the third South African woman to break 55 seconds earlier this season and brought her personal best down to 54.82 in Marrakech last month, took fifth place on her Diamond League debut in Monaco on Friday night.
Starting in lane eight, she was never really in contention for victory, but Nel maintained her composure to cross the line in 55.29.
“It was an amazing experience. I am very happy with my performance in Monaco and I believe I'm right on track for the Games,” Nel said on Sunday.
“My first goal will be to reach the final and from there fight for a medal.
“I believe anything can happen once I'm in the final and I really want to be on the podium.”
The 26-year-old hurdler, who trains with elite men LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks, was a silver medallist at the All Africa Games and a semi-finalist at the World Championships in 2011.
Having chopped more than half a second off her career record this season, however, Nel was hoping her commitment to the sport would result in her first podium finish at a major international championship.
“I changed my job and I'm working only half-day now so I have more time to focus on specific things regarding my training, and I have more time to train,” she said.
“Some small lifestyle changes may also have contributed, and I am mentally better prepared for whatever comes my way.”
Meanwhile, middle-distance runner Johan Cronje was gutted by his poor showing in the men's 1 500m race in Monaco.
Cronje finished 12th in 3:33.69, less than two seconds off his 10-month-old national record, but well behind Kenyan winner Silas Kiplagat who became the fourth fastest man in history with an impressive victory in 3:27.64.
Cronje, the World Championships bronze medallist, went out hard in what was billed as a world-record attempt but soon dropped back in the pack and was unable to unleash his trademark kick on the final lap.
“I'm very disappointed. I was expecting to go much faster,” Cronje said.
“The first 150-200 metres was definitely too fast but I feel I lost too much time over the last 300m.
“There was also a few things that did not go according to plan leading up to the race but I should not let that affect my performances.”
Elsewhere at the weekend, three other members of South Africa's Commonwealth Games team delivered respectable performances at the World Challenge meeting in Madrid.
Andre Olivier took second place in a slow, tactical men's 800m race on Saturday, just four days before the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Olivier finished in 1:46.13, with Job Kinyor of Kenya edging the South African in a sprint finish in 1:46.11.
Training partners Khotso Mokoena (8.00m) and Zarck Visser (7.94m) ended fourth and fifth respectively in the men's long jump in the Spanish capital.
Mokoena will compete in the triple jump in Glasgow, while Visser will turn out in the long jump event. - Sapa