Four medals see SA rocket to top of medals table
South Africa’s stars of the future produced one of Mzantsi’s best-ever days at a major international championship on Saturday, raking in three gold medals and a bronze on the fourth day of the IAAF World U-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
In the morning session, high jumper Breyton Poole had the crowd on its feet as he added six centimetres to his personal best to earn the boys high jump title.
Standing at 1.72m, the diminutive athlete soared clear at 2.24 metres to earn a comfortable victory, just one centimetre short of Jacques Freitag’s 18-year-old national youth best.
‘I was patient from the beginning and this made me more confident as the event went on,’ Poole said. ‘I feel great, having set two best heights in the same competition. Previous coaches discouraged me because of my height and I decided to work harder. Today I proved them all wrong.’
In the evening session, Sokwakhana Zazini and Zeney van der Walt raced to a golden double in the boys and girls 400m hurdles finals.
Zazini, who holds the world youth best of 48.84 seconds, blew the field apart as he scorched to a commanding victory in 49.27.
He finished almost three seconds clear of his nearest opponent, the host nation’s Moitalel Mpoke Naadokila, with bother the runner-up and third-placed Bapitste Christophe recording personal best times.
If ever there was a case of an athlete living up to the hype as the pre-race favourite, it was Zazini.
‘This is the moment I have been looking forward to. The whole world and South Africa was watching, so I had to deliver,’ Zazini said. ‘Getting out the blocks quickly was the whole plan and I followed the coach’s instructions. I thank all who helped me reach this point.’
Van der Walt delivered a gutsy performance to snatch gold from Jamaican favourite Sanique Walker.
Though Walker held a gaping lead at the start of the home straight, she clattered into the final hurdle and Van der Walt launched a stunning late attack, which saw her dipping on the line to win by 0.04 in 58.23sec.
‘I didn’t expect to win,’ Van der Walt admitted. ‘I just kept on pushing till the end because I still had the energy. I’m very happy.’
Closing out a fine day of podium performances for the team, Morne Brandon added a crucial bronze medal in the boys discus final to add to the nation’s growing medal count.
Brandon launched a 58.34m heave with his final attempt to reach the bottom step of the podium. Compatriot Jonathan de Lacey Lacey, who took bronze in the shot put earlier in the week, had to settle for 10th position with a best effort of 54.02m.
‘I’m very happy to win a medal today,’ Brandon said. ‘I want to thank my teammates for the support and congratulate my fellow medallists.’
In the girls 1 500m final, Nicole Louw took fifth place against a strong East African contingent in 4:33.40, while Lyndi Roelofse finished seventh in 4:36.34.
‘I’m so proud of my performance because I walk out of here with a top-eight finish. When I got a surprise inclusion in the team I gave it my best for South Africa and I’ll work my way back,’ said Louw.
Roelofse said: ‘I want to thank God, ASA and the people of South Africa for the work well done in bringing me here. It’s an amazing experience and I’m proud to be part of Team SA because the way we are supporting each other in camp, is amazing.’
Tharina van der Walt, who was fourth in the discus throw earlier in the week, ended ninth in the girls hammer throw final with a best attempt of 61.45m.
In the preliminary rounds, sprint sensations Tshenolo Lemao and Retshidisitswe Mlenga progressed safely through to the boys 200m final on Sunday.
Mlenga, who earned 100m silver earlier in the week, clocked 21.10 to win his semi-final, while Lemao, the 100m champion, also secured victory in his race in 21.30.
Jana van Schalkwyk progressed automatically to Sunday’s javelin final, delivering a personal best effort of 53.69m with her first attempt in the qualifying round.
The SA 4x400m mixed relay team took second place in their heat in 3:28.87, also advancing to the final on Sunday.
Super Saturday saw the pride of the nation rocket back to top place on the medal table with eight medals (four gold, two silver and two bronze, ahead of Germany and China.