Akani Simbine, Wayde van Niekerk and Thando Roto in the men’s 100m final during the national championships at Puk McArthur Stadium in Potchefstroom at the weekend.
JOHANNESBURG - "Spectacular, spectacular, no words in the vernacular can describe this great event, you’ll be dumb with wonderment.”

I’ve always wanted to quote lyrics from Moulin Rouge as the lines from the musical from the early 2000s aptly describe last weekend’s South African Track and Field Championships in Potchefstroom.

The sleepy university town received a good dose of quality athletics not witnessed in a long time on South African soil.

South Africans are understandably getting swept away by the hype of the current crop of sprinters making a lasting impression at international level but it is the general quality across the board that delighted enthusiasts.

The championships provided a mix of world-class performances on the track as well as the infield.

Male sprinting is where South Africa boasts depth with fleet-footed men emerging from every corner of the country.

It is clear South Africa’s born-frees are making the best of the opportunities they are given and proves what can be achieved when the shackles of oppression is removed.

Wayde van Niekerk has clearly taken the mantle as the godfather of the new athletics generation with Akani Simbine playing a supporting role.

The young generation look up to the two sprinters for guidance and leadership and they have happily taken on the role.

Van Niekerk highlighted his class when he raced to victory in the 200m final catapulting him to the top of the world rankings with his time of 19.90 seconds, just 0.03secs off the national record.

The 400m world record-holder is followed by Simbine, Clarence Munyai, and Ncincilili Titi in the top-5 in the early 200m world rankings while Gift Leotlela’s personal best of 20.20secs is the sixth fastest so far in 2017.

Simbine’s 9.92secs from the Gauteng North Championships is the second fastest so far this year with Thando Roto following in 9.95secs.

Women’s 100m record-holder Carina Horn’s performance in the heats and semi-finals suggested she could become the first South African female to dip below 11 seconds this year posting a season opener 11.10secs.

Caster Semenya’s times may not have installed fear in her opposition abroad but it remains quite an achievement to claim the 400-800m double.

The in-field performances almost overshadowed that of the sprinters with Olympic long jump silver medallist Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai stealing the show. Manyonga produced the goods with his only jump of the championships by extending his national record by three centimetres on his opening attempt.

Leaping to a new South African and continental record of 8.65m, Manyonga moved up one place on the world all-time list.

Long after Manyonga had retired from a groin injury, Samaai made a statement that he should not be written off with a leap of 8.49m. It was the first time the top three at the championships jumped over eight metres with Zarck Visser rounding off the podium with his best attempt of 8.03m.

Shot-putter Orazio Cremona launched the best throw by a South African on home soil with his final shot of 21.12m which is the eighth best so far this year.

Jaco Engelbrecht’s second-place heave of 20.63m also earned him a place for the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

Olympic javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen remained among the top women in the world with a season’s best 63.49m completing an all-round good championships.

The sport is certainly on the right track.

Saturday Star

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