Cape Town — Team South Africa won’t be on a “holiday” when they take on the rest of the continent at the African athletics championships in Mauritius from Wednesday.
A 90-strong team, the biggest at the event, jetted off to the Indian Ocean island to participate at the Cote d’Or National Sports Complex until Sunday.
Athletics SA’s track and field commission chairperson Jean Verster said that Mzansi’s finest were hoping to top the overall medal table.
At the last championships in 2018 in Asaba, Nigeria, South Africa harvested a 31-medal haul, but were officially second on the list to Kenya, as they earned 11 golds to SA’s nine.
But Team SA’s hopes of matching those feats won’t be high in Mauritius, as they are without the likes of Wayde van Niekerk and Ruswahl Samaai, while Caster Semenya can no longer compete in the 400m, 800m or 1 500m.
Semenya is part of the team this time around, but will push for a world championships qualifying time in the 5 000m.
South Africa’s best medal hopes lay with Akani Simbine, who will defend his 100m title from 2018, but he will face serious competition from Kenyan superstar Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the African record-holder and beat Simbine earlier this year.
The men’s 4x100m relay team also stand a good chance of emerging victorious, with Simbine joined by Henricho Bruintjies, Emile Erasmus, Sinesipho Dambile, Clarence Munyai and Benjamin Richardson.
Another defending champion from 2018 is 110m hurdles star Antonio Alkana, while in the field events, Kyle Blignaut (shot put) earned a bronze the last time in Nigeria and Victor Hogan (discus) took gold.
On the women’s front, SA 800m champion Prudence Sekgodiso will be pushing hard to take the continental title after a second-place finish on her Diamond League debut in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday night, and 100m hurdles youngster Marione Fourie will look to make an impression in her first senior international championships.
“We are hopeful. We just have to make sure that the athletes understand that this is not a holiday place, seeing that it is in Mauritius! We are there to win medals and we are there to move forward,” Verster said in an interview on the Athletics SA YouTube channel this week.
“Hopefully our athletes will come to the party – not the real party, but come to the athletics party – and make sure that we are winning the African championships in terms of medals… that is our main goal.
“We had a fantastic season in South Africa, and we have new young group of athletes really coming through. You saw how they did last year in Nairobi at the world junior championships. We are really building on our future now – not that the older athletes are not important, but we are especially working with the younger athletes.
“This championship – after quite a few grand prix events and the national championship were good stepping stones for the international season – is very important, which is why we are sending such a big team, as it’s a major stepping stone ahead of the international competitions.”
Team South Africa
100m: Akani Simbine, Henricho Bruintjies
4x100m relay: Simbine, Bruintjies, Emile Erasmus, Sinesipho Dambile, Clarence Munyai, Benjamin Richardson
200m: Sinesipho Dambile, Clarence Munyai, Benjamin Richardson
400m and 4x400m: Zakithi Nene, Tumisang Shezi, Gardeo Isaacs, Sokwakhana Zazini, Sabelo Dhlamini, Leroux Hamman
800m: Tshepo Tshite, Jabulane Ncamane, Kabelo Mohlosi
1 500m: Ryan Mphahlele
10 000m: Mbuleli Mathanga, Elroy Gelant
110m hurdles: Antonio Alkana, Ruan de Vries, Rivaldo Roberts
400m hurdles: Sokwakhana Zazini, Sabelo Dhlamini, Leroux Hamman
3 000m steeplechase: Ashley Smith
20km walk: Wayne Snyman
High jump: Mpho Links, Brian Raats
Pole vault: Valco van Wyk, Elmar Schutte
Long jump: Jovan van Vuuren, Cheswill Johnson
Triple jump: Lleyton Davids
Shot put: Kyle Blignaut, Cian de Villiers
Discus throw: Victor Hogan, Werner Visser
Heptathlon: Alan Cumming, Tshepeng Makhethe, Renaldo Frechou
Javelin throw: Johan Grobler, Phil-Mar van Rensburg, Hernu van Vuuren, Marcell de Jager, Jesse Perez
100m: Carina Horn, Phindile Khubheka
4x100m relay: Horn, Kubheka, Tamzin Thomas, Banele Shabangu, Miranda Coetzee
200m: Tamzin Thomas, Banele Shabangu, Miranda Coetzee
400m and 4x400m: Deline Mpiti, Precious Molepo, Marlie Viljoen, Zeney van der Walt, Wenda Nel, Taylon Bieldt
800m: Prudence Sekgodiso, Gena Lofstrand, Marli Dimond
1 500m: Carina Viljoen, Danielle Verster
5 000m: Caster Semenya, Kyla Jacobs
10 000m: Glenrose Xaba, Cian Oldknow, Cacisile Sosibo
110m hurdles: Marione Fourie, Charlize Eilerd, Marzaan Loots
400m hurdles: Zeney van der Walt, Wenda Nel, Taylon Bieldt
20km walk: Marissa Swanepoel
High jump: Shanese de Klerk, Yvonne Robson, Mia Jansen van Rensburg
Pole vault: Mire Reinstorf, Nicole Janse van Rensburg, Erica Moolman
Long jump: Danielle Nolte, Eljone Kruger, Karmen Fouche
Shot put: Ischke Senekal, Dane Roets, Meike Strydom
Discus throw: Yolandi Stander, Riette Heyns, Zonica Lindeque
Heptathlon: Leandri Geel, Marga Cumming, Marinda Greyling
Javelin throw: Jo-Ane van Dyk, Mckayla van der Westhuizen, Jana van Schalkwyk, Shannon Verster