Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
3 Aug 2017
5:06 pm

South Africa’s medal charge could wait till Saturday

Wesley Botton

Team SA's much-anticipated campaign at the IAAF World Championships begins on Friday but don't expect fireworks just yet.

Stephen Mokoka. Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images.

While the SA team will open their campaign on Friday’s opening night of the IAAF World Championships in London, the squad’s first real chance of a medal is likely to come on Saturday evening.

Distance runner Stephen Mokoka will contest the first final when he lines up in the men’s 10 000m race at 11.20pm on Friday, though he is likely to be out of his depth against the world’s best.

Also read: South Africa’s medal contenders: the superstars

A few medal contenders, however, will be looking to progress safely through qualifying rounds on day one.

Long jumpers Luvo Manyonga, Ruswahl Samaai and Zarck Visser, who will form the nation’s strongest contingent in any discipline, will line up in the preliminary round at 9.30pm.

Sprinters Akani Simbine and Thando Roto will enter the blocks in the 100m heats at 10.20pm, in search of a spot in the semifinals on Saturday morning, and discus throw giant Victor Hogan will turn out in the qualifying round of his discipline at 10.45pm.

Should they get that far, Manyonga, Samaai and Simbine will be among the favourites for podium places in finals on Saturday night.

Two of the country’s other medal hopefuls, Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya, will open their campaigns in the 400m and 1 500m heats respectively on Saturday.

Though Van Niekerk admitted he was unsure what to expect, as one of three athletes in the team aiming for a double on the track – along with Simbine (100m/200m) and Semenya (800m/1 500m) – he said he was satisfied with his impressive form and confident of his chances.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for me… but I have full faith in what coach (Ans Botha) has done,” Van Niekerk said at an Adidas media conference this week.

“Now it’s just up to me to go out there and lay it out on the track.”

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