Day 2 of the South African Championships saw the majority of the heavy weights in local athletics assert their dominance in their respective fields. Everything on the day at the ASA senior and combined events champs at MC Arthur Stad in Potchefstroom went according to plan for both Athletics South Africa for all concerned.
Alyssa Conley emerged at the SA Championships as the heavy weight in the short distance sprints winning both the 100m and 200m women’s finals with poise and grace with times of 11.41s and 22.94s respectively. Alyssa goes into the new season looking feeling in great shape and looks set to improve on the silver medal she won the 200 metres at the 2016 African Championships later on in the year and looks forward to the world championships. We spoke to her after her 200m victory which ensured that she qualified for the world championships.
“I ran six races and I got one race right so am extremely happy. I will be focussing on 200m at the world championships, so I am happy to have qualified and I will just focus on that.”
Luvo Manyonga, remember that name as he certainly is one for the present and future. Luvo has broken the national record for long jump twice in 2017 and did so with one jump in the final of the mens long jump in Potchefstroom. He didn’t jump again as he got injured whilst on the jump when he set the new South African and African records of 8.62 metres. Manyonga who hails from Mbekweni township in Paarl was in high spirits after his win saying;
“It is my game plan to go big on the first jump and it has helped a lot for the competitions that I’ve done. However this time I went big on the first jump and injured my groin, then I pulled out. This is the best competition I have come across since competing because as you can see second place jumped 8.49 metres, that shows the direction in which South African Athletics is heading. In terms of breaking the world record, it’s possible because it was broken by a human being and am also a human being, so I am going to push myself to surpass that 9 metres.”
Caster Semenya once again never disappointed retaining both her 400 metre and 800 metre South African titles dominating her counterparts finishing with times of 00:51.60 and 2:01.03 respectively. Semenya, showed her class as an Olympic gold medallist not just outshining her counterparts but also assisting them in improving their times as well. We caught up with her after her win in the 800 metre race.
“Yeah everything is fine I mean this race was about basics, keeping the rhythm, staying on ones toes until the finish. It was an interesting race as the girls are pushing. I am quite happy with how we ran more than about how I ran. I knew what the plan was, it being January we need to go a bit faster, so I took over the management of the race so that Gena (second placed athlete in the race) could follow so that she could try go a little bit faster. I am more experienced when it gets to the last kick so I was trying to push her so that she can run a better time.”
Then it was time for the fastest man over 400 metres in history, a legend in his own right and the dark horse in every single sprinting contest hereon, the formidable Wayde Van Niekerk to take one back over Akani Simbine in the 200 metres. Simbine had won the 100 metres the day before beating Van Niekerk with a time 9.96 seconds. Van Niekerk had come out in response to set the challenge for the 200 metres and had delivered on his promise to beat Simbine with a time of 19.90 seconds. This was the fastest time ever run on home soil over the 200 metre distance only surpassed by Anaso Jobodwana when he ran 19.87 in Beijing in 2015. We caught up with Van Niekerk and Simbine after the 200 metre race.
“I think that was the main aim today, to try and beat Clarence (4th placed athlete in the race) around the bend, racing alongside the likes of Akani and knowing what he can do, I tried my best just to maintain the momentum I got from the bend. We felt a bit lazy with the heat (weather conditions) and lucky for me I saved a bit more energy and Akani was feeling like going 20.05s all day long, so a bit of rest in the Semis helped me today. I am feeling so good putting up such a good time and yeah as well getting my revenge for yesterday’s 100 metre race.” Van Niekerk
“For me personally it was a terrible race, as soon as I was out of the blocks I had to fight from the start and things didn’t go as planned. Overall it was a great race when looking at the time that I ran and knowing that I made a couple of mistakes but I am very happy though disappointed at the same time. “ Simbine
This is certainly the golden generation in South African Athletics with many other athletes putting their hands up and aiming to make stipulated threshold times to qualify for the World Championships. It’s early in the athletics season and by the time the world championships come, South African athletes will be well placed to make their mark at the world stage.
“I think it is about time that us as South Africans step up and show the world that we belong amongst the greatest. The likes of America and Jamaica are people that we look up to so we want to be part of America and Jamaica and add South Africa to that elite list.” Van Niekerk