Cape Town — Werner Visser was the unlikely hero at the African athletics championships for Team South Africa on Thursday as Akani Simbine just missed out on defending his 100m title.
Discus thrower Visser was expected to play second fiddle to his experienced SA teammate Victor Hogan in Mauritius, but instead, the 24-year-old turned the tables to snatch the gold medal with a final-round throw of 61.80m — which was just 19cm short of his personal best of 61.99m.
Visser, though, could enjoy his last throw as he had already won the title at that point with his fourth-round effort of 60.42m, as Hogan threw before him and could only muster a best effort of 58.95m in his fifth round.
Visser was the only gold medallist among the nine South Africans who secured podium spots in Port Louis.
The most dramatic event was the men’s 100m final, where Simbine was up against African record-holder Ferdinand Omanyala.
The Kenyan was the clear favourite, but Simbine roared out of the blocks and kept in touch with Omanyala before edging slightly ahead at one stage.
They went hard at the line, and the photo finish couldn’t be closer, with a time of 9.93 seconds being awarded to both athletes. But the officials had to find a winner, and Omanyala’s time was 9.927, compared to Simbine’s 9.930 — so the Kenyan won by three one-hundredths of a second.
💥OHHHH ! What a race...— SPORTALL - La 1ère plateforme vidéo 100% SPORTS (@sportall_media) June 9, 2022
🥇Ferdinand Omanyala is African champion with the same time as Akani Simbine (9"93).
📺![CDATA]>💻![CDATA]>📱Watch live https://t.co/q8sxaoIVRe
#COCAAS22 #athletics #athle #africanchampionships #championnatsdafrique@WorldAthletics @confwebcaa @Ferdiomanyala pic.twitter.com/rxULZ3y3Rp
It was double success for South Africa, though, with Henricho Bruintjies claiming the bronze in 10.01.
Carina Horn was hoping to grab a gold in the women’s 100m final, but it was not to be as Gina Bass of The Gambia took the honours in 11.06, followed by Niger’s Seyni Aminatou in 11.09. SA record-holder Horn ran 11.08 in the semi-finals, but clocked 11.14 in the final.
There was a bit of an upset in the men’s 110m hurdles final, with South Africa’s defending champion Antonio Alkana having to settle for a bronze medal in a time of 13.59.
Algeria’s Amine Bouanani was victorious in 13.26, followed by Jeremie Lararaudeuse of Mauritius in 13.55.
The other South African medallists on the day were Cheswill Johnson (silver in the men’s high jump with 7.78m), Marione Fourie (bronze in the women’s 100m hurdles in 12.93) and Yvonne Robson (bronze in the women’s high jump, on countback, with 1.79m).
It was tough going for former 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya in the 5 000m final, though. Semenya was chasing a world championships qualifying mark of 15 minutes and 10 seconds (15:10.00), but finished in sixth position with a time of 16:03.24.
Fellow SA athlete Kyla Jacobs ended seventh in 16:16.06, with Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet clinching the gold medal with a time of 15:00.82.