Khotso Mokoena will take part in the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, next week. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
South Africa will be looking to retain the continental crown at the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, next week.

The country has developed into the powerhouse on the continent, finishing at the top of the medals table for two consecutive years.

Athletics SA (ASA) selected a strong team for the championships, spearheaded by world champions Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga.

The team features a host of stalwarts like quadragenarian hammer thrower Chris Harmse, Olympic silver medallists Sunette Viljoen and Khotso Mokoena,.

Semenya will be looking to continue her global dominance in the 800 metres while she will also back into the blocks in the one-lap sprint.

At the previous championships in Durban, Semenya won the 800m, 1500m and the 4x400m relay titles.

South Africa will be without two of its world champions in Wayde van Niekerk and national half-lap record holder Clarence Munyai.

But the team still has enough fire-power to hold on to the continental crown for the third consecutive year.

Defending champions like Viljoen and women’s 400m hurdles ace Wenda Nel may be out of form but even at their worst, they should be the best in their respective events.

Horizontal jumps legend Khotso Mokoena is on a mission to prove that age is just a number as he looks to add a seventh medal at the continental championships. The Olympic long jump silver medallist has won the African title in both the long and triple jump.

He has finished second in the long jump on two occasions and also boasts triple jump silver and bronze medals.

Mokoena will be going to the Nigerian championships hoping to win his second title in the hop-step-and-jump event.

“For me the goal is to get the title, and definitely go to the Continental Cup and I feel like I am the best in Africa right now and I just have to prove it,” Mokoena said.

The 33-year-old has been outspoken about the country’s inconsistent selection criteria for major events like the Commonwealth Games. He was left out of the national team for this year’s quadrennial showpiece at the Australian Gold Coast unable to defend his triple jump title.

“We have a long way to go to improve our systems and start doing things differently like other countries and there are a lot of things they need to implement,” Mokoena said.

“It is going to take a while but we hope it will be positive if they decide to use a different strategy in terms of the selection process.”

South African men’s 100m record holder Akani Simbine is hellbent on being crowned the fastest man on the continent.

Two years ago a fatigued Simbine finished third in the 100m at home in Durban but his current form suggests he could cross the line in first place.

He clocked a season’s best 9.93 seconds at the recent Diamond League meeting in London.

Viljoen is expected to win her sixth African title which could be her seventh medal since the Bambous championships in 2006.

The men’s long jump will be another battle between Manyonga and defending champion Ruswahl Samaai.

The duo is the among the top three long jumpers in the world and will be taking their duel to the African showpiece.


Sunday Independent

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