Given a final opportunity to fine-tune their preparations for the international campaign, South Africa’s track and field elite will line up at the third and final leg of the Liquid Telecom Grand Prix series in Paarl on Thursday night.
These are some of the star attractions in the entry lists.
Caster Semenya (1 500m)
Displaying top form ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games, Semenya broke the 35-year-old national 1 000m record at the second leg of the Grand Prix in Pretoria earlier this month and clocked a high-altitude 1:57.80 to win the 800m title at the national championships last week. If Semenya opens the taps, Zola Budd’s 34-year-old SA 1 500m record of 4:01.81 could be reset
Carina Horn (100m)
One of the country’s most consistent athletes, after dipping under 11.20 every year since 2014, Horn finally grabbed full ownership of the national record when she stormed home in 11.03 in the SA Championships semifinals. Again expected to lead a solo charge in the women’s short sprint, Horn has hinted that she could chase the sub-11 barrier if the conditions are suitable
Akani Simbine (100m)
After opening his season by winning the men’s short dash in 10.05 at the second leg of the Grand Prix series in Pretoria earlier this month, Simbine went on to win his first-round heat at the national championships. Picking up a hamstring niggle, however, he withdrew from the semifinals as a precautionary measure ahead of the international season. Though he lines up against a packed field, the national record holder will go into the blocks as the firm favourite
Julius Yego (javelin throw)
A former world champion, Yego is unlikely to receive much competition from the rest of the line-up. After spending much of last year on the sidelines due to injury, however, the Kenyan powerhouse will be eager to make an impact ahead of his title defence at the Commonwealth Games next month
Ruswahl Samaai (long jump)
After snatching silver and gold respectively at the World Indoor Championships and SA Championships, global champion Luvo Manyonga has gone back to the training pit ahead of the international season. In his absence, in-form jumper Ruswahl Samaai will turn out as the firm favourite against countryman Zarck Visser