JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will be bullish about its chances at the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, starting today with six athletes ranked among the top five in their respective disciplines this year.the
World Youth 400m hurdles champions Sokwakhana Zazini and Zeney van der Walt will spearhead South Africa’s attack at the biennial showpiece. They will both be the top-ranked athletes in their respective events with world youth record-holder Zazini’s season’s best of 49.32 seconds he clocked in Pretoria in March making him the clear favourite. While Athletics SA has pencilled Zazini’s name in for the flat 400m, he has indicated that he would only be racing over the one-lap hurdles.
Van der Walt, who broke the South African women’s junior 400m hurdles record blitzing a time of 55.05, finishing second at the national championships.
She will be the over-whelming favourite in the absence of American world junior record holder Sydney McLaughlin.
A 19-member team will be looking to improve on South Africa’s performance at the previous edition at Bydgoszcz two years ago where they won three silver medals finishing 22nd overall.
National junior shot-put record holder Kayle Blignaut also tops the world rankings with his personal best of 21.65m. His biggest challenge is expected to come from world youth champion Adrian Piperi, who is ranked second behind the South African with a heave of 21.50m.
South African will have more strong representation in the javelin throw with Anro van Eden topping the rankings in his specialist event with a world-leading 77.59m from Paarl in April.
He has two-metre advantage on his nearest rival, Turkey’s Toygar Ismet Pekbak, with a personal best of 75.27m from May.
Sprinting sensation Thando Dlodlo, who set a new South African 100m junior record at the national senior championships in March where he clocked 10.11 in Pretoria, will be among the favourites in the sprint events. The South African will be looking to clinch a 100-200m double gold where he will be backing into the blocks in the half-lap sprint ranked third in the world with a PB of 20.41.
World Youth high jump champion Breyton Poole will have to reproduce the form from 2017 to add the junior title to his list of accolades. His season’s best jump of 2.20m ranks him seventh in the world with Mexico’s Vilches topping the rankings with a season’s best 2.26m.
The diminutive Poole won the youth crown in Kenya last year when he cleared 2.24m before adding another centimetre to his personal best a few months later.