Picture: Backpagpix
JOHANNESBURG - As the South African winter approaches, the country’s top athletes will be flying north with an eye on the IAAF World Championships in London in August while others will be looking to qualify for the global showpiece.

A total of 18 athletes have met Athletics SA’s (ASA) A-standard for the world championships with close to 30 meeting the B-qualifying standard.

Olympic javelin throw silver medallist Sunette Viljoen has met the A-qualifying standard so far this season.

The team could be further bolstered by the inclusion of wild card entrants that finished first at the CAA African Championships which includes Caster Semenya (1500m), Stephen Mokoka (10000m), Phil-Mar van Rensburg (javelin throw), Claudia Heunis (100m hurdles), and Fredrich Pretorius (decathlon). It is ASA’s prerogative to decide whether these athletes should be included or not.

World 400m record-holder Wayde van Niekerk will receive a free pass to the championships due to his title-winning run two years ago in Beijing.

Olympic long jump silver medallist Luvo Manyonga has secured his place with his South African and continental record of 8.65m with Ruswahl Samaai also earning his place with a personal best of 8.49m.

Although 110m hurdlers Ruan de Vries and Junior Mkatini have technically dipped below the qualifying mark of 13.38 seconds, they are unlikely to be selected based on the dodgy timing system at the Bloemfontein leg of the ASA Speed Series.

The 10000m, marathon, race walks, relays and combined events window period opened on the first day of 2016 while the rest of the track and field events opened on October 1 of last year.

South African 100m record-holder Akani Simbine has met the qualifying criteria in both the 100m and the 200m with his season’s best 9.92secs and 19.95secs respectively.

With each country limited to three entrants per discipline, the fight for places in the men’s 200m could be an intriguing one ahead of the world championships in August.

Carina Horn Picture: Backpagpix

A total of five athletes, including Van Niekerk with a world lead of 19.90secs, have met the qualifying mark in the half-lap sprint.

World 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana is yet to get back into the blocks in his specialist event this year but is likely to join the fray over the next month or so.

Van Niekerk and Simbine hold the early advantage with junior national record-holder Clarence Munyai, Gift Leotela, Ncincilili Titi and Jobodwana set for a battle for the third spot.

Close to 30 athletes have met the B-standard but it will not guarantee the athletes' selection for the world championships.

The international season will start in earnest over the weekend with the Doha Diamond League meeting on Friday where a host of the country’s top athletes will be in action.

Caster Semenya. Picture: Backpagpix

Although Semenya has not posted an A-qualifying time in her specialist 800m event, she is expected to dip below the required time of 2:01 against a quality field in Qatar.

She will line up against fellow Olympic podium finishers Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui while 1500m world champion Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia will also be part of the field.

@ockertde

The Star

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