By Mark Etheridge

It was hurdlers Antonio Alkana and Leroux Hamman who flew the South African flag highest at Wednesday’s IAAF World Challenge track and field meeting in Dakar, Senegal.


Cape Town’s Alkana won the men’s 110-metre hurdles race in 13.40 seconds, hitting the line 0.12sec outside the personal best he clocked at last weekend’s Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco.

Konstadinos Douvalidis of Greece finished second in 13.52.

In the 400m hurdles, it was the Double-H brand of Hamman and Lindsay Hanekom who secured a South African one-two, holding off the third-placed local runner Amadou Ndiaye (50.42) in front of his home crowd.

Pretoria’s Hamman, who has already represented South Africa at Junior World Championships in Canada as well as at World Student Games, clocked 50.06, just ahead of new kid on the block Lindsay Hanekom (50.13).

A happy coach, Irma Reyneke told Road to Rio 2016: ‘He’s such a hard worker and a humble athlete who truly respects his opponents. He’s improved unbelievably this year and it’s such a pleasure to coach him.’

Hamman, who was fourth at this meeting last year, has now run his second best time ever, is quickest being a 49.99 at the Johannesburg leg of the Varsity Cup.

The product of Lichtenberg Hoërskool now heads back home for his next race on 11 June at Tukkies in Pretoria and equally important, exams for his engineering degree. He then has other meetings in Denmark (25 June) and Finland (29 June).

As for Hanekom, who has run a qualifying time for the Rio Olympics already this year, he was pleased as punch with his position and time, given the circumstances.

‘I’m very pleased with both my position and time,’ he told Road to Rio 2016. ‘To be honest I was something of a favourite going into the race with my 49.03 time but with the like sod Jamaican Olympian Leford Green and Belgium’s Michael Butheel, also an Olympian, in the field my focus was more on them and it made me lose concentration. I mean, these guys can run sub-49sec and thereabouts, so yes I was so nervous.

‘Conditions weren’t that hot with more a warm breeze and I guess as it’s my first international competition I’m still learning and experiencing all of this stuff.’

Pretoria giant Orazio Cremona again fell short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 20.50m in the men’s shot put, though he earned a podium place by grabbing third place with a best heave of 19.96m.

Congo’s Franck Elemba took the win with a personal best of 21.01m.

And Dylon Cotter ended seventh in the men’s long jump, producing a best leap of 7.60m into a -3.1m/s headwind, well behind American Jarvis Gotch who delivered an impressive 8.31m effort for victory, also into a strong wind.

Middle-distance runner Dumisane Hlaselo, who has also been chasing the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:36.20 for the last couple of months, again missed out when he finishing fourth in 3:40.58 in the men’s 1500m. Compatriot Jerry Motsau ended seventh in 3:54.17, as African Games silver medallist Abdi Waiss Mouhyadin of Djibouti won in 3:36.87.

Cremona and Hlaselo should both have further chances to secure their places in the national team for the multi-sport showpiece, with seven weeks remaining before the Olympic qualifying deadline.

In women’s track events national 100m sprint champion Alyssa Conley delivered another solid performance, when she won silver in the women’s 100m dash in 11.42. She was 0.14sec behind American winner Alexandria Anderson, who is a World Championships relay gold medallist.

Reflecting on her race, Conley told Road to Rio 2016: ‘I think it should have been my race but I completely forgot that starters in Africa use different starting techniques.

‘The starter said “on your marks” and then just made a random sound for “set”. I lost my focus as I never knew what that signal for set was so I had no start and had to play catch up.’

Conley was already in Paris on Thursday morning for the next leg of her European adventure. ‘I race in Garvado, Italy on Sunday (the 200m) and have three races in Europe. I can’t wait to just settle down in Italy as it’s been constant travelling since I left SA.’

Beijing Olympian Tsholofelo Thipe took fifth place in the women’s 400m contest in 53.10, as Lydia Jele of Botswana held off Nigerian Patience George to win a tight battle up front in 52.18.

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