CAPE TOWN – She could’ve been one of Team South Africa’s medallists at the IAAF World Championships next month, but it is not to be for Sunette Viljoen.
Mzansi’s queen of the javelin announced on Friday that she has had to withdraw from the biggest competition in athletics outside the Olympic Games due to an unspecified injury.
“The most difficult decision I’ve had to make is to withdraw from @London2017. An injury leaves me no choice. Believe me, I’ll be back!!!” Viljoen stated in a tweet.
It is a huge blow for South African athletics, as Viljoen has shown time and again that she is the lady for the big stage.
She erased the heartbreak of ending fourth at the 2012 London Olympics and out of the medals with a silver at last year’s Rio Olympics.
Viljoen was actually leading the competition most of the way in Brazil last August with a first-round effort of 64.92m. She held on to the lead until the fourth round, but then young Croatian Sara Kolak produced a superb throw of 66.18m, a new national record, to claim gold.
Viljoen won a bronze medal at the last world championships in Beijing in 2015 – as well as a third place in Daegu in 2011 – and would’ve hoped to emulate or even better that achievement in London this year.
The 33-year-old hasn’t been at her absolute best this season, with a 2017 distance of 63.49m placing her in 15th position on the world list.
But the powerful Viljoen is a fierce competitor who has the experience and ability to pull out a big throw when it matters, so it is a real pity that she won’t get a chance to make amends in the same Olympic Stadium where he came up just short of winning a medal in 2012.
Revised South African Team
Akani Simbine (100m, 200m), Thando Roto (100m), Pieter Conradie (400m), Wayde van Niekerk (200m, 400m), Clarence Munyai (200m), Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles), Stephen Mokoka (10 000m), Luvo Manyonga (long jump), Ruswahl Samaai (long jump), Zarck Visser (long jump), Orazio Cremona (shot put), Jaco Engelbrecht (shot put), Rocco van Rooyen (javelin), Victor Hogan (discus), Lebogang Shange (20km walk).
Marathon: Lusapho April (2:11:41), Sibusiso Nzima (2:11:43), Desmond Mokgobo (2:10:51).
Carina Horn (100m), Justine Palframan (200m, 4x400m relay), Caster Semenya (800m, 1 500m), Gena Lofstrand (800m, 4x400m relay), Rikenette Steenkamp (100m hurdles), Wenda Nel (400m hurdles), Ariane Nel (4x400m relay), Zoë Engler (4x400m relay).
Marathon: Jenna Challenor, Mapaseka Makhanya.