Mixed bag for SA athletes in Slovenia


By Mark Etheridge

It was a sweet and sour experience for South Africa’s athletes at the EA Classic meeting in Velenje, Slovenia, on Tuesday.

While Wayde van Niekerk was running a personal-best 9.94sec for the 100-metres, others didn’t have it all their own way.

National sprint champion Alyssa Conley (pictured above) was opening her European campaign.

Originally down to run both the 100 and 200m, she ended up running only the 200, and was disqualified for running outside her lane.

Some of the South African athletes had spent close to eight hours on a bus trip to the event, and felt the effects on race day.

’It was a sad lesson learnt,’ said Conley en route back to her training base in Gemona, Italy. ‘My coach told me he always gets worried because I get too close to the line around the bend, so I guess I had to learn this lesson, rather at a smaller meet.

‘But I feel good though, and I know I’m in shape. I just have to stop chasing the goal and “times” because then I don’t run my race.

’So my plan for the races coming up is to live in the moment, and everything will fall into place. Next up is another 200m at the World Challenge meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic.’

Another athlete slowed by the long journey was Emile Erasmus, who came second in the 100m in 10.12sec behind Van Niekerk. ‘I only got to the hotel at 2am and then had to race the next evening, so I was tired.

‘But the race went well, although my legs now feel finished. So for now I just need some rest, but I’m happy to be just running consistent times. My next race will be 28 June in Nancy, France.’

Rio Olympian Lynique Prinsloo jumped 6.25m for fourth spot in the long jump, but was brutally frank regarding her leap.

‘That was a very weak display from me, definitely not my best form, but I’m finding my rhythm slowly but surely.

‘I’m definitely in shape, everything must just come together now.’

Prinsloo’s next competition is in Budapest, Hungary on 4 July, ‘and then Lagos, Nigeria on the 12th which is my focus point.’

One person who was more than happy, was Western Cape sprinter Thamzin Thomas (pictured below), who won the 200m in in 23.82sec.

‘While I was warming up I was totally nervous and just didn’t know what to expect. But I just told myself to do my best and asked God to guide and protect me during the race.

‘Afterward I felt huge relief and was very happy with the result. But I feel I can definitely improve on my time,’ said the Paul Gorries-coached athlete who has a 23.35 best under her belt.

‘Before the recent Southern Region championships in Zimbabwe I got flu a week before and couldn’t train. I then took part in the 100m and got injured just before coming to Europe. So I’ve basically just done rehab training before this 200m, so it can only get better.’

Teenager Thomas’ main focus (she turns 20 in October) while on her European trip, with help from Macsteel, is to use it as a build-up to the World Student Games in Taiwan ‘and if I am lucky enough go qualify for World Championships in London, I’ll be more than happy.’

A University of Western Cape (UWC) BA student, Thomas is also based in Gemona and is thriving on the experience. ‘It feels good to be training with SA’s top athletes. It puts you in a really good space where you train hard and stay motivated. Back home, because it’s off-season for many, you find yourself training alone and your mind goes off track at times.

‘But since being in Europe I’ve got that extra drive to keep working hard and staying focused. I love the environment where we’re based, and I’m well disciplined when it comes to relaxing and recovering and eating healthy foods.’