Cape Town — Miranda Coetzee and Miré Reinstorf were the toast of Team South Africa at the African athletics championships on Friday as they grabbed gold medals in Mauritius.
Coetzee set the tone for the South Africans at the Cote d’Or National Sports Complex in Saint Pierre with a sensational run in the women’s 400m final.
The 24-year-old held back over the first 250 metres, with Nigeria’s Patience George storming into the lead from the start.
But once they hit the home straight for the final 100m, Coetzee charged forward and created a big gap from the rest of the field to clinch victory in a time of 51.82 seconds.
Zambia’s Niddy Mingilishi took the silver in 52.36, while Veronica Mutua of Kenya was third with 52.76. The other SA athlete, Precious Molepo, was seventh in 53.78.
And later in the afternoon, women’s pole vault star Reinstorf brought more glory to Mzansi by emerging victorious with a 3.80m leap.
Reinstorf turned just 20 on June 5, and was the world under-20 champion in Nairobi last year. On that occasion, she set her personal best of 4.15m, but the rainy conditions in Mauritius made life difficult on Friday.
The Stellenbosch athlete only entered the competition at 3.80m and cleared the height with her first attempt, but was unable to get over 4.00m.
Fellow South African, Nicole Jansen van Rensburg, made it a double for SA by grabbing the bronze medal with a 3.70m effort, but she was edged out for silver on a count-back by Tunisia’s Mahfouthi Dorra, who had the same height.
A third SA competitor, Erica Moolman, was fourth with 3.70m as well.
In the men’s 400m final, SA star Zakithi Nene was extremely unfortunate to miss out on a medal. The national champion nearly got on to the podium, having clocked 45.54 – the same time as Mohamed Glassi of Tunisia. But the officials separated the two athletes by a few thousandths of a second, with Glassi on 45.533 and Nene credited with 45.540.
The highly fancied South African men’s 4x100m relay team of Cheswill Johnson, Benjamin Richardson, Antonio Alkana and Henricho Bruintjies were chasing the gold medal, but had to be satisfied with the silver in a time of 39.79 seconds.
Kenya, who had African 100m record-holder and champion Ferdinand Omanyala in their team, were just too good on the day as they won the event in 39.28, with Zimbabwe third in 39.81.
It was still a fantastic effort by the SA men’s team, and they are sure to be even quicker at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon in July as the likes of Akani Simbine, Gift Leotlela and Emile Erasmus could still be added to the group.
In the women’s 4x100m relay, South Africa’s quartet of Banele Shabangu, Charlize Eilerd, Tamzin Thomas and Phindile Kubheka clocked 44.87 seconds to claim the silver behind Nigeria, who grabbed the gold medal in 44.45, while The Gambia was third with 44.97.
South Africa came close to a medal in the women’s long jump final as well, but it was not to be in the end. Eljone Kruger was the best of three SA athletes with 6.14m for fourth position, and she was followed by Karmen Fouche in fifth (6.10m) and Danielle Nolte in sixth (6.09m) – with the champion being Marthe Koala of Burkina Faso with a solid 6.42m effort.