Updated: August 31, 2015

5f39677e-bb48-4973-8c6e-437ca5c4136dTeam South Africa will return home on Tuesday morning with three medals, but there is some work to do for the national athletics squad if they are to reach their full potential at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Sprinters Wayde van Niekerk and Anaso Jobodwana were in fine form at the World Championships in Beijing, which ended on Sunday, both earning medals in their specialist events.
Van Niekerk was carried off the track on a stretcher after storming to a new African record of 43.48 seconds, defeating a full-strength line-up and climbing to fourth place in the all-time list of 400m athletes.
Jobodwana snatched third place from Panama’s Alonso Edwards in the men’s 200m final, clocking a national mark of 19.87 and dipping under 20 seconds for the first time, to take his place on the podium as the third fastest half-lap runner in the world behind Jamaican world record holder Usain Bolt and controversial American Justin Gatlin.
The young sprint contingent delivered a standout performance all round, with Akani Simbine missing out on a place in the men’s 100m final by 0.03, clocking 10.02 in the semifinals, and Henricho Bruintjies also reaching the penultimate round.
However, the 4x100m relay quartet – Simbine, Bruntjies, Jobodwana and Antonio Alkana – crashed out in the opening round.
Competing as a unit for the first time, they fluffed one of the handovers and did not finish their heat.
Carina Horn, meanwhile, held her own in the women’s 100m dash, clocking 11.08 in the first round to miss the national record by 0.02, though she was knocked out in the semifinals.
Justine Palframan was unable to progress beyond the 400m heats, but she reached the penultimate round of the 200m event.
On the field, Sunette Viljoen cemented her position as South Africa’s most consistent track and field athlete by securing her second career bronze medal.
Viljoen launched a 65.79m heave to finish third behind Kathrina Molitor of Germany (67.69m) and Huihui Lyu of China (66.13m) in the women’s javelin throw final, making up for narrow disappointments at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, where she finished sixth, and the 2012 London Olympics, where she ended fourth.
Race walker Lebogang Shange was the only other SA athlete to set a national record at the championships, taking 11th place in the men’s 20km event in 1:21:43 to better his own mark by seven seconds.
Capping a breakthrough season, Wenda Nel also did well to reach the final of the women’s 400m hurdles, finishing seventh in 54.94 seconds and providing further indication of her potential ahead of the Olympics.
Among the biggest disappointments of the championships was the failure of the world-class long jump trio of Zarck Visser, Ruswahl Samaai and Khotso Mokoena to reach the final.
Mokoena went on to reach the triple jump final but narrowly missed the halfway cut on countback and finished ninth with a best attempt of 16.81m.
One-lap hurdler LJ van Zyl, who had shown a return to form this year, was eliminated in the semifinals, while Cornel Fredericks withdrew ahead of the first round with a hamstring injury.
Former 800m world champion Caster Semenya, who set her fastest time since 2013 in the heats (1:59:59), was nearly four seconds slower in the semifinals and was also unable to progress.
Three of the country’s four representatives in the marathon did not complete the 42km distance.
The second-string team – missing the likes of Lusapho April, Rene Kalmer, Irvette van Zyl and Mapaseka Makhanya, all unavailable for various reasons, and Stephen Mokoka who was focussing on the 10 000m – struggled in the conditions, and only national champion Desmond Mokgobu finished the men’s race, crossing the line in 41st position in 2:34:10.
Willem Coertzen withdrew from the decathlon event after four disciplines.
The continental record holder said his body was not responding, and he felt he had spent too much time in China in the build-up to the event.
South Africa finished 13th in the medals table with one gold and two bronze – the nation’s best performance at the showpiece since the 2009 edition in Berlin, when they earned two gold and one silver for ninth position – and Kenya became the first African country to end top of the standings.

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