Three of the country’s elite track and field athletes will be chasing medals on Saturday, after progressing safely beyond the first rounds of their respective events on Friday’s opening day of the IAAF World Championships in Doha.
Akani Simbine displayed cracking early form, dominating his 100m heat as he coasted across the line in 10.01 seconds, finishing 0.15 clear of Canadian speedster Aaron Brown.
The SA record holder was the second quickest athlete in the first round, with only American rocket Chris Coleman going faster after he won the sixth heat in 9.98.
Simbine is set to turn out in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon, lining up among the favourites in search of a place in the final to be held later in the day.
He was set to do so alone, however, after countrymen Thando Dlodlo and Simon Magakwe both clocked 10.25, taking fourth and sixth positions in their respective heats as they were knocked out.
Meanwhile, long jumpers Ruswahl Samaai and Luvo Manyonga negotiated their way safely into Saturday’s final.
African champion Samaai was fifth best in the qualifying round, launching a leap of 8.01m, and while title holder Manyonga settled for 10th place with a 7.91m jump, he too booked his place in the medal contest.
Both men were facing a stiff battle in a wide open event, however, with Cuban athlete Juan Miguel Echevarria producing a massive 8.40m effort in the qualifiers, dragging seven men over the eight-metre barrier.
And national champion Lindsay Hanekom’s campaign ended early after he was eliminated, finishing sixth in his 400m hurdles heat in a pedestrian time of 51.71.
Aside from Simbine, Samaai and Manyonga, race walker Marc Mundell was also set to compete in a final on day two, with the SA record holder turning out in the men’s 50km walk on Saturday night, though he was not expected to feature up front.
While distance runner Dom Scott-Efurd had qualified for both the 5 000m and 10 000m events, she was not in the entry lists for the longer race this evening, suggesting she would focus on the 5 000m event to be held next week.