Looking fitter, trimmer and stronger, national javelin throw queen Sunette Viljoen believes her SA record is on the line this year as she targets the magical 70-metre barrier.
Viljoen, a two-time World Championships medallist who earned silver at last year’s Rio Olympics, opened her season with a 62.82m heave at the third leg of the ASA Speed Series in Potchefstroom on Wednesday night.
Though she was nearly seven metres short of the 69.35m national best she set in New York in June 2012, Viljoen said she had lost seven kilograms in the off-season and she believed this could be the best season of her career.
The 33-year-old athlete, who will go in search of her first world title in London in August, felt she had the ability to become only the fifth woman in the world to send the spear beyond 70m.
“I feel in the best shape my life,” Viljoen said.
“If I keep training hard, I know it’s within my reach, and I really want to hit 70m this year. I feel the time is right and my body is ready.”
In other events, Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya set a personal best of 9:36.29 to win the second 3 000m contest of her career, holding off a brave fight from Kesa Molotsane (9:37.46) down the home straight.
In-form speedster Akani Simbine earned a convincing victory in the men’s 200m dash, crossing the line in 20.32.
While he was well outside his season’s best of 19.95, he was pleased with the result after picking up a bout of flu two days earlier.
Despite the Pretoria rocket battling with illness, the expected clash against rising junior star Clarence Munyai did not materialise, with Isaac Makwala of Botswana taking second spot in 20.62 and Munyai settling for third position in 20.67, just two weeks after he set a national junior record of 20.10.
“I told myself to work hard on the bend, and then just ease off for the rest of the race,” Simbine said.
“So I’m happy with the race and the time that came out of it.”
In the biggest upset of the night, former World Championships bronze medallist LJ van Zyl was handed a rare defeat on home soil.
Van Zyl faltered at the final hurdle and Le Roux Hamman worked hard to edge him out by 0.29, securing a morale-boosting victory in 49.70.
“I went out very hard over the first 300m, but I made a mistake at the 10th hurdle,” Van Zyl admitted.
“I fell backwards a bit and lost momentum, and he took me, but it’s a long season ahead of the World Championships and there’s still a lot of work for all of us to do to get there.”
Earlier, in the pre-programme, there were some pedestrian performances by athletes who had produced stunning times at the Speed Series meeting in Bloemfontein a week earlier, where a problem with the electronic timing system left question marks over all the track performances.
Junior Mkatini, who finished second in the 110m hurdles in Bloemfontein in 13.28, won the high-hurdles contest in Potchefstroom in 13.96.
Le Roux van Tonder, who won the men’s 100m B race last week in 10.09, took the A race in Potch in 10.40, again indicating that officials should consider scrapping the official results from the previous meeting.