CAPE TOWN – There were contrasting fortunes for South African sprinters Gift Leotlela and Shaun Maswanganyi in international meetings on Wednesday night as they continue their build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Leotlela, who is the fastest South African over 100 metres in 2021, lined up at the Meeting Athletisme in Marseille, where he had to get through a heat first in order to qualify for the final.
The 23-year-old Tuks athlete, who ran a personal best of 9.94 seconds in Johannesburg a few weeks to secure his ticket to Tokyo, produced a solid time of 10.27 in the heat on Wednesday.
So, he would’ve been one of the favourites for the final, where no else had gone quicker in their heat.
But unfortunately for Leotlela, he was disqualified due to a false start, and he was unable to continue.
Experienced French sprinter Jimmy Vicaut went on to win in a rather pedestrian 10.36 – although it was into a strong headwind of -1.4m/s – with former 200m world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey finishing second with 10.42.
At the same event, SA 800m champion Tshepo Tshite was well off his best, and ended ninth in 1 minute, 46.39 (1:46.39), with Kenyan Collins Kipruto winning in a new meeting record of 1:43.95.
Another SA athlete, Berend Koekemoer, contested the 400m and finished sixth in 47.74.
In the women’s section, national 400m champion Dalene Mpiti clocked 52.68 to claim sixth position.
On the other side of the world in Eugene, Oregon, Maswanganyi pulled off two more smooth runs on a wet track to qualify for the 100m and 200m finals at the NCAA Division 1 national championships.
The 20-year-old from Soweto, competing for the University of Houston Cougars, set a new personal best in the 200m, motoring to victory in his semi-final in 20.18 – beating his previous mark of 20.19, with both times eclipsing the Olympic qualifying mark of 20.24 – which secured his passage to the final on Friday (Saturday morning SA time).
Maswanganyi will double up in the 100m, as he cruised through his semi-final in 10.14. In both finals, his main rivals will be Terrance Laird, JoVaughn Martin, Matthew Boling and Micah Williams.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, SA javelin ace Rocco van Rooyen went beyond 80 metres once more.
The Western Province athlete, who is seventh on the world list this year with a personal best of 85.97m he threw in Parow in February, produced an effort of 82.55m to end third in Finland.
In the men’s 400m hurdles, Sokwakhana Zazini finished fifth in 50.72 seconds.