Clarence Munyai, Shaun Maswanganyi and Anaso Jobodwana advance to 200m semi-finals
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CAPE TOWN - TEAM South Africa's hopes of having an athlete in the men's 200m final received a huge boost at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday as all three entrants advanced to the semi-finals.
Clarence Munyai, Shaun Maswanganyi and Anaso Jobodwana all managed to get through the heats unscathed in the day session at the Olynpic Stadium.
First up was Jobodwana, a 200m bronze medallist from the 2015 world championships.
The 29-year-old has battled with injuries and form over the last few years, but has been working hard to get back on to the big stage again.
He was drawn in heat one, where the fastest runner this year with 19.88 seconds was Nigerian Divine Oduduru, who was disqualified for a false start in the 100m event.
Jobodwana had run 20.72 in 2021, which made him the seventh-quickest in the field.
Sporting a white headband, Jobodwana burst out of the blocks from lane three and hit the bend in third place behind Jamaican Rasheed Dwyer and Oduduru, and he was able to maintain his place all the way to the finish line to end third in 20.78 seconds to claim the last automatic qualifying spot.
Dwyer won in 20.31, with Oduduru second in 20.36.
Impressive young University of Houston athlete Maswanganyi lined up in heat two, where Trinidad and Tobago's Jereem Richards was the favourite, with a personal best of 19.97.
But the South African had the fastest time this year with 20.10, so he would have been confident of making the next round, having felt that the half-lap event was better suited to him than the 100m, where he reached the semi-finals.
The 20-year-old made a quick start with his smooth running style, leading the field into the bend, but he was caught in the home straight by Richards and Taymir Burnet of the Netherlands.
Maswanganyi, though, pushed harder in the closing stages to finish second in 20.58 behind Richards (20.52), with Burnet third in 20.60.
The last South African in the 200m was national record-holder Clarence Munyai (19.69), who had the toughest race of the Mzansi trio as he had three other sub-20 second runners in heat seven to contend with, including American world champion Noah Lyles (19.50).
Munyai's best time this year is 20.49, so he had it all to do to be among the three automatic qualifiers.
But it was Ghana's Joseph Amoah who told the early lead, and he was followed closely by Lyles and Munyai.
Fast-finishing Swaziland athlete Sibusiso Matsenjwa, though, roared forward in lane nine to snatch second place in 20.34, behind Lyles, who won in 20.18.
Amoah grabbed third in 20.35, and Munyai trailed in fourth with 20.49.
But fortunately for the 23-year-old Tuks sprinter, he made it through to the semi-finals as one of the 'fastest losers'.
The top guns in the 200m held their fire in the heats, with the quickest time going to American Kenny Bednarek (20.01).
But Team South Africa will be excited to see their three sprinters in the 200m semi-finals later on Tuesday.
Jobodwana is in the first race at 1.50pm SA time, followed by Munyai (1.58pm) and Maswanganyi (2.06pm).
The top two athletes in each race will advance to the final, as well as the two 'fastest losers' from the rest of the field.
The other SA athlete in action in the day session at the Olympic Stadium was Jo-Ane van Dyk in the women's javelin qualification round.
Her best effort was 57.69m, which placed her in 13th position in Group B and 24th overall, which was not far enough to make the final.
A number of other SA athletes will be in action later today, including Antonio Alkana in the men's 110m hurdles (12.42pm SA time), Precious Mashele in the men's 5 000m heats (1.16pm), and men's shot put entrants Kyle Blignaut and Jason van Rooyen (1.40pm).