Wayde van Niekerk takes foot off the gas in 200m final, Ruswahl Samaai rules long jump
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CAPE TOWN - Wayde van Niekerk was in such control that he was able to slow down towards the end of the race in clinching the gold medal in the 200m at the South African athletics championships in Pretoria on Saturday night.
With national record-holder Clarence Munyai not lining up for the final – having qualified as one of the ‘fastest losers’ by one-hundredth of a second – it was between Van Niekerk and 2015 world championship bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana for the title.
Youngster Nicolas Ferns made an impressive start, but as the race went on, it was Van Niekerk who took charge.
The 28-year-old 400m Olympic champion and world record-holder stepped up his effort as the field came into the home straight, surging past Ferns and Jobodwana to open up a visible gap.
The lead was so wide that Van Niekerk actually held back as he got closer to the finish line on a cool Pretoria night, and he took the honours in 20.38 seconds.
Benjamin Richardson pushed through in the final stretch to claim the silver medal with 20.77, while Ferns got the bronze in 20.83. Jobodwana ended sixth and last in 20.90.
Now Van Niekerk will travel to the United States to train with 200m world champion Noah Lyles ahead of the European season, where he will tackle his favourite 400m event before the Tokyo Olympics.
In the field events, Ruswahl Samaai was challenged all the way in the long jump competition, but proved that he is still the best in the country by securing the gold medal with a leap of 8.16m.
The Boland star told Independent Media before the event that he was looking to put pressure on youngsters such as Jovan van Vuuren and Divan Manuel, who both went beyond the eight-metre mark in recent weeks.
But it was Samaai who was the happiest at the end, and he will continue the build-up to the Olympics in the upcoming European season.
In the men’s shot put, Kyle Blignaut was all smiles after clinching his first South African title with a distance of 20.82m.
Blignaut was hoping to reach the Olympic qualifying mark of 21.10m, but it was not to be on a cool late afternoon in Pretoria.
There was a fight to the end in the men’s high jump, where former junior world champion Breyton Poole of Boland was trying to get the better of Mpho Links of Central North West.
Poole’s best effort was 2.15m, but it was Links who took the gold medal on countback with the same height of 2.15m.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, veteran Wenda Nel claimed her ninth national title, but she just missed out on the Olympic qualifying time of 55.40, as she won in 55.60.
But considering her consistent form and running times in the 55-second region, she will be confident of attaining the required time to make it to Tokyo.