JOHANNESBURG – The country’s growing list of world-class sprinters will lead the charge in Potchefstroom this week, as a number of elite stars target double titles at the ASA Senior Championships on Friday and Saturday.
In-form Olympic finalist Akani Simbine will turn out as the favourite for the men’s 100m and 200m crowns, after he was confirmed in the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) entry lists released on Tuesday.
Simbine, who has clocked times of 9.92 and 19.95 in the short sprints this season, will line up against 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk (Athletics Free State), World Championships 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana (KwaZulu-Natal Athletics) and national junior 100m record-holder Gift Leotlela (AGN) in both events.
Two other AGN speedsters, former national 100m record-holder Henricho Bruintjies and the latest SA athlete to dip under 10 seconds, Thando Roto, will focus on the short dash, while Western Province hurdles specialist Antonio Alkana will compete in the flat 100m event and the 110m contest over the barriers.
In the women’s sprints, Alyssa Conley is gearing up for another double, in an attempt to defend her national 100m and 200m titles.
The Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) athlete will face AGN speedsters Carina Horn and Tebogo Mamatu in the 100m event, and with World Student Games 400m champion Justine Palframan of Boland Athletics (BOLA) focussing on the one-lap dash, Conley will be the firm favourite in the 200m final.
In the men’s 400m Hurdles, a quality line-up from AGN is expected to dominate the podium, with national record holder LJ van Zyl joining Commonwealth Games champion Cornel Fredericks, as well as fellow Olympians Le Roux Hamman and Lindsay Hanekom in a strong team, while Van Zyl will also have a go in the flat 400m sprint.
World Championships 400m hurdles finalist Wenda Nel will also double-up by competing in her specialist event over the barriers, as well as the flat 200m dash.
Among the middle-distance specialists, Olympic two-lap champion Caster Semenya is expected to steal the show for host team Athletics Central North West (ACNW).
While Semenya will not defend the 1 500m title she won last year, she will compete in the 800m and 400m events after winning both finals last season.
Olympic finalists Elroy Gelant (ACNW) and Stephen Mokoka (AGN) are due to meet in the 5 000m and 10 000m contests in perhaps the most anticipated of the men’s distance events.
In the field events, Olympic silver medallists Sunette Viljoen (ACNW) and Luvo Manyonga (AGN) will concentrate on their specialist disciplines.
Viljoen, also a two-time World Championships bronze medallist, is expected to have little trouble in defending her national women’s javelin crown.
Manyonga, meanwhile, is expected to face a full-strength line-up in the men’s long jump.
Despite setting a national record of 8.62m in Tshwane last month, he will face a battle with the entry lists also including the CGA trio of African champion Ruswahl Samaai, Commonwealth Games silver medallist Zarck Visser and Dylon Cotter.
In the women’s long jump, Olympic athlete Lynique Prinsloo (AGN) is up against SA-born Karin Mey.
While Mey, who earned bronze for Turkey at the 2009 World Championships, is entered as an individual, she will not be eligible for the SA title.
Fredriech Pretorius, who set a personal best of 8 002 points in the Decathlon at the AGN Championships in Pretoria last month, will be up against SA record holder Willem Coertzen (ACNW) in the event.
And on the road, in-form walkers Lebogang Shange (CGA) and Wayne Snyman (AGN) will go head-to-head in the Men’s 20km event.
Anel Oosthuizen (CGA), who equalled her own SA record of 1:34:49 in Podebrady earlier this month, will toe the line as the favourite to defend the women’s 20km title.