Akani Simbine eased into the semi-finals of the 100m on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

JOHANNESBURG - Some long overdue athletics action provided a reprieve from the organisational chaos on the first day of the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria yesterday.

Overshadowed by nations threatening to boycott the continental meeting due to botched travel and accommodation arrangements, the championships got off to a delayed start. Teams from across the continent , including South Africa, were stranded at the airport in Lagos for days waiting for a connection to Asaba.

The five-day track and field event was scheduled to start in the morning but was pushed to the afternoon with only the 100-metre heats and the men’s 10,000m taking place. South Africa’s male and female sprinters all advanced to the 100-metre semi-finals which were supposed to have taken place on the same day but were postponed to today.

Commonwealth Games champion Akani Simbine was in a class of his own, winning his race comfortably with a time of 10.29 seconds. “My first goal was to win the Commonwealth Games and now it is to win the African title just to stay healthy and prepare for the next two years,” Simbine said

Seven-time South African champion Simon Magakwe finished second in his heat, clocking 10.42 a split second behind Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast. Roscoe Engel also made it through to the next round despite his pedestrian 10.62 which was good for second place and a spot in the semi-final.

In the women’s 100m, Cassidy Williamson (11.79) booked her place for the semis by finishing third behind world-leading Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who posted the fastest time of 11.25. South Africa’s Tebogo Mamatu won her heat by clocking 11.90 to advance to the semi-final. Distance ace Elroy Gelant was the first South African featuring in a final and finished in the men’s 10,000m with a time of 30:23.35.

The Star

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