Cape Town - Team South Africa got off to a flying start at the African Athletics Championships in Mauritius on Wednesday by grabbing the first gold medal on offer.
Ischke Senekal had a rocky start, but produced the winning effort of 16.40m in the fifth round to successfully defend the women’s shot put title that she won in Asaba, Nigeria in 2018.
The 29-year-old had no-throws in her first two rounds, and was only able to get a distance of 12.88m in her third round.
But Senekal took the lead in round four with a 15.95m heave, and went even further with a 16.40m put to claim the gold.
She was followed by Carine Mekam of Gabon, who clinched the silver medal in 15.87m, while South Africa’s Zonica Lindeque claimed the bronze in 15.79m.
Another SA athlete, Dane Roets, finished fifth with a 14.87m effort.
Meanwhile, on the track, Akani Simbine got the defence of his 100m title off to a flying start.
The 28-year-old speedster clocked 10.14 seconds to clinch victory in heat five ahead of Kenya’s Samwel Imeta, who took the other automatic qualifying spot for the semi-finals by finishing second in 10.34.
The quickest athlete in the heats unsurprisingly was African record-holder Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya, who produced a time of 10.05 in heat one, with Nigeria’s Raymond Ekewo taking second place in 10.11.
The other South African in the field, Henricho Bruintjies, also got through his heat unscathed with a time of 10.20 for second position behind winner Arthur Cisse of Ivory Coast (10.13).
Bruintjies will line up in the second semi-final at 2.05pm SA time today, while Simbine goes in the third semi-final, with the final set for Thursday at 2.10pm SA time.
On the women’s front, SA record-holder Carina Horn was victorious in her 100m race on Wednesday, running 11.27 seconds to win heat four, while Phindile Khubheka also advanced to the semi-finals by finishing fourth in heat one with 11.64.
Nigeria’s Seyni Aminatou was the fastest qualifier for the semi-finals with 11.07.
Khubheka will run in the first semi-final on Wednesday at 1.50pm SA time, with Horn following in the third semi-final.