Delight for Team SA in Poland as men’s 4x400m relay team qualify for Tokyo Olympics
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CAPE TOWN – It was a happy evening for Team South Africa at the World Relays championships in Silesia, Poland on Saturday night as the men’s 4x400m squad qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
Led off by junior star Lythe Pillay, the 4x400m team finished second in their heat to make it through to Sunday’s final, which ensured their passage to Japan as all eight finalists qualified automatically for the Olympics.
Their time of three minutes, 03.79 seconds (3:03.79) was more than four seconds off the South African record of 2:59.21, but it was good enough to end second on the night behind the Netherlands, who won in 3:03.03.
Pillay was followed by national champion Zakithi Nene, who handed the baton over to Oscar Mavundla for the third leg, with Ranti Dikgale finishing things off.
The fact that Team SA progressed to the final without 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk – who opted not to travel to Poland as he is about to fly to the United States for training – will give SA relays coach Paul Gorries even greater confidence for the Tokyo Games.
While the 4x400m team showed their delight afterwards at having qualified for the Olympics, the men’s 4x100m group had a different goal on Saturday night as they have already made it to Tokyo.
It’s all about fine-tuning for Akani Simbine and Co, and they cruised into Sunday’s final by also finishing second in their heat in a time of 38.49, behind winners Italy in 38.45. Thando Dlodlo started off for Team SA, followed by Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai, with captain Simbine taking the final leg.
The Commonwealth Games champion went hard all the way to the line to try and catch Italian speedster Filippo Tortu, but he was unable to catch him. It is the final that counts, though, and the team have made it clear that they want to clinch the gold medal.
The third SA squad was the mixed 4x400m group – made up of Ukona Khuzwayo, Deline Mpiti, Taylon Bieldt and Ranti Dikgale – but they missed out on a spot in the final after finishing sixth in their heat in 3:19.18.