Event: Women’s Long Distances Date of birth: 1985/04/09 Personal bests: 800m (2:03.36),...
SEMENYA TO LEAD 10 SA ATHLETES IN DOHA
South Africa’s elite stars will converge on Doha on Friday night, aiming to get the international season off to an explosive start with 10 athletes confirmed in the line-up for the first Diamond League meeting of the year.
Former Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya, who displayed impressive form in the domestic campaign, will spearhead the women’s 800m field.
Semenya bagged three individual titles at the national senior championships in Stellenbosch last month and repeated the feat with another treble at the SA Student Championships in Limpopo last week.
After storming to a season’s best of 1:58.45 in Stellenbosch, she will be eager to regain her best form in the international campaign and stamp her place among the early favourites for the Olympic title in Rio in August.
World Championships javelin throw bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen had a sedate start to the 2016 campaign, and though she was nowhere near her best form at local meetings in recent weeks, she will also be eager to make a statement with a big effort in Doha.
Another global championships finalist, Wenda Nel, focussed on flat sprints for most of the domestic season, but after charging to the national title in 54.84 seconds in her first 400m hurdles race of the season, she will look to go even faster when she turns out in the Qatari capital.
Among the men, Victor Hogan will go in search of consistency after launching a massive personal best of 67.62m at the national championships.
Middle-distance runner Dumisane Hlaselo will chase the elusive Olympic standard of 3:36.20 in the 1 500m race and Antonio Alkana will compete in the 110m hurdles contest in his first international outdoor meeting of the season.
The rest of the SA contingent in Doha will consist of a five-member 4x400m relay squad, invited to compete in a qualifying attempt for the Rio Olympics.
With world champion Wayde van Niekerk unavailable, opting to focus instead on the SA Open Championships in Bloemfontein this weekend, the relay team will include Shaun de Jager, Thapelo Phora, Pieter Conradie and Jon Seeliger. Junior prospect Phemelo Matlhabe also left with the squad on Wednesday, travelling as cover in case of injuries or illness.
The SA team will face national relay squads from Botswana, France, Japan, Poland, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
In order to qualify for the Rio Games, South Africa must fill one of eight remaining places in the 4x400m rankings, based on aggregate times of their two fastest performances during the window period.
“We will have further opportunities for our relay teams, including our 100m sprinters, but it is important that our athletes take every available chance to ensure we are represented in multiple relay events at the Olympics,” said Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana.
“Our sprint athletes have shown tremendous improvement, depth and consistency in recent seasons, and we will open every available avenue to assist them in their quest to compete at the Games.”