15 AUGUST 2016
Ex champ Malherbe on Wayde’s win… and the way forward
By Mark Etheridge
Former South African 400-metre champion and national record holder Arnaud Malherbe says that once again his expectations of new world record holder and now Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk continue being blown out of the water!
It seems a long time ago now that Malherbe motored to his personal best of 44.59sec in Roodepoort back in 1999. And indeed in terms of athletics progression, the 43.03 that Van Niekerk ran in Rio on Sunday is light years apart.
Malherbe, who is serving in an expert early-morning commentary capacity on television back home in South Africa, took time out to sum up the magnitude of Van Niekerk’s Olympic moment.
‘Well, we wondered if No 8 would be a good or bad lane but I didn’t think it would bother him too much be because he paced so well at World Championships in Beijing and listened exactly to what his coach had said. I knew he could do it and the other benefit was that Kirani James was only two lanes inside him so at least if James started fast then Wayde wouldn’t have to wait until only 100m to run before he saw his main rivals!
The humblest hero
By Gary Lemke
Looking at her tiny baby born prematurely at 28 weeks and weighing in at less than a kilogram, Odessa Swarts feared the worst. She was still only 18 when she arrived at the state-funded Tygerburg Hospital in Cape Town on 15 July 1992. She was told to prepare herself as doctors gave her new-born a blood transfusion and with a medical prediction of less than 24 hours to live.
Today Odessa, a star athlete in her own right during South Africa’s apartheid years, is the proudest mother in the world, and her 24 year-old son is the biggest property in athletics. Period. And on Monday, the day after he had done the unimaginable and won Olympic gold from the extreme outside lane eight, and not only won, but broken the great Michael Johnson’s world record that had stood since 1999, Van Niekerk was still trying to take everything in.
‘I actually had no strategy, I just let God just take over,’ he said reflecting on that 43.03sec effort which carved a huge 0.15 seconds off the record the experts said could only be broken by Usain Bolt. Van Niekerk had come to Rio as the world champion from last year and carried huge gold medal hopes for Team South Africa. After a semi-final that saw him placed in lane eight, well away from the likes of Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt, the whispers grew. He can win gold, was the feeling, but everything would have to go right for him. Consensus was that, from lane eight, he’d have to go like a bullet leaving a barrel and hope to hang on.
Women’s 200m, Heat three and four, Alyssa Conley was fourth in heat three of nine with a time of 23.17 (0.32sec outside her season’s best) and Justine Palframan ended fifth in a time of 23.33 in the next heat.
In a nutshell: Conley’s heat went to Caribbean athletes Michelle-Lee Ahye (Trinidad and Tobago) and Jamaica’s Simone Facey who grabbed the two automatic qualifying spots in 22.50 and 22.78. In Palframan’s race (she also ran the 400m qualifying heats two days ago), she also missed out on the automatic slots as current African Games champion Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Coite d’Ivoire won in 22.31 from newly crowned world 100m champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica (23.63). Conley and Palframan were ranked 36th and 43rd respectively after the completion of the heats.To progress they would have had to run a 22.94 on Monday.
Men’s triple jump qualifying, Group B, Khotso Mokoena finished 10th in Group B with a best of 16.51m on the day.
In a nutshell: After opening with a 15.13 leap, the 2008 Olympic long jump silver medallist improved to a 16.51 and then had a final leap of 1 6.44. That left him in 21st spot overall. Automatic qualifying for the final was pegged at 16.95m or at least the 12 best performers. So Mokoena misses out and would have needed 10cm more on the day to go through.
Men’s 400m hurdles heats (four, five and six), Le Roux Hamman ended seventh in 49.72, Lindsay Hanekom was also seventh in 50.22 and LJ van Zyl was second in 49.22.
In a nutshell: Up and coming youngsters Hamman and Hanekom will live to fight another day as they missed out automatic qualification that went with ending in the top three of each heat. But two-time Olympic veteran LJ van Zyl lives to fight another day with a solid showing. With wife Irvette being ruled out of the marathon due to injury, Van Zyl will be looking to fly the Van Zyl family flag on her behalf. He goes into the semi-finals as 15th fastest qualifier. Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte leads the way with an impressive 48.37sec.
Men’s 110m hurdles, heat three: Antonio Alkana
In a nutshell: Alkana hit two of the three hurdles in his heat to finish fifth, but his 13.64 recorded sent him though as one of the fastest qualifiers as he placed 21st overall. A total of 24 athletes went through to the next round.
Women’s 10km open water event, Michelle Weber ended 18th in the event swum off Copacabana in a time of 1hr 59min 05.0sec.
In a nutshell: Weber came into her debut Olympics after a strong performance at the final qualifying event in Setubal, Portugal two months ago where she placed sixth in a time of 1:55.49. On this occasion she was always slightly off that pace.
At the 2.5km, 5km and 7.5km markers she was ranked 15th, 16th and 17th respectively and ended up being 2min 32.9sec off the pace as Netherlands swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal splashed to gold. Weber will be back though. At just 19 she was one of just four teenagers in the field and will only get stronger in future.
Women’s K1 200m, Heat Four, Bridgitte Hartley finished third in heat four with a time of 41.698sec to progress into the semi-finals. In a nutshell: Hartley made a point of saying on Sunday that this event is little more than a testing of the waters for her big event, the K1 500m sprint. ‘The starting blocks are always a bit different at every event so this is great to get a feel of what they’re like for later in the week.’ She told SASCOC President Gideon Sam ‘not to expect much’ but he’ll no doubt be happy to see her going into the next stages as the 12th fastest of 28 semi-finalists.