Rikenette Steenkamp won the 100m hurdles at the Athletics World Cup in London in July. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

JOHANNESBURG - Travelling difficulties have marred South Africa’s build-up to the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria starting on Wednesday.

Issues with the local organising committee (LOC) arranging accreditation, police-escorted travel and accommodation have made it a trip from hell for South African athletes. Some were still stuck in Lagos after leaving South Africa on Saturday, waiting to be transferred to Asaba.

A few of the country’s medal contenders will be in a race against time to acclimatise before they line up on Wednesday. Among the stars at the championships is Rikenette Steenkamp, who has been rising in the global 100m hurdles ranks this season.

Steenkamp is fresh off one of the biggest victories of her career after beating a strong field at the inaugural Athletics World Cup in London recently. She has dipped below 13 seconds over the short-sprint hurdles breaking the national record twice this year.

Injury denied the 25-year-old the opportunity to defend her continental title at the previous edition that was held in Durban in 2016. Her strongest challenge will come from local favourite and Commonwealth Games champion, Oluwatobiloba Amusan, who boasts a season’s best of 12.68 and a PB of 12.57.

Steenkamp said although Amusan posed a serious threat, she believed she stood a realistic chance at winning her second African title. “If you look at the race in London I should not have won it on paper but I did. That is both the good and bad thing of hurdles where the competitor could clip a hurdle.”

Steenkamp believes now she is consistently dipping below 13 seconds it is only a matter of time before she posts times below 12.7. This would edge her even closer to where the best hurdlers in the world feature.

“I feel I have it in me, and it will come together at the right time, I just want to keep the momentum and consistently run 12.8s,” Steenkamp said. “I’ve already set my sights on 12.7 seconds and faster.”

The Star

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