Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Richardson stuns Van Niekerk to win SA 200m title

Winning in 20.16, Richardson qualified for the Olympic Games to be held in Paris later this year.

Benjamin Richardson delivered a spectacular upset on Saturday, beating Wayde van Niekerk to the gold medal in the men’s 200m sprint on day three of the SA Athletics Championships in Pietermaritzburg.

Richardson rocketed over the line in 20.16 seconds, qualifying for the Olympic Games in Paris later this year, with 400m world record holder Van Niekerk settling for the silver medal in 20.31.

“It’s surreal. Three years ago I ran against my role model (Van Niekerk) for the first time, and now I’m toe-to-toe with him and I’ve beaten him,” said 20-year-old Richardson.

“This makes me happy and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Pillay also qualifies

Also shining on the track, former world junior champion Lythe Pillay stormed home to win the men’s 400m final in 44.31.

Pillay climbed to second place in the all-time national rankings (only Van Niekerk has run quicker) and booked his place in the SA team for the Paris Olympics.

Zakithi Nene, who had already achieved the Olympic qualifying standard (45.00) dipped under the mark again to take the runner-up spot in 44.80.

Wildschutt dominates 5,000m final

Meanwhile, in one of the most anticipated races of the national championships, SA record holder Adrian Wildschutt won gold in the men’s 5,000m final.

After sitting behind early leader Elroy Gelant for most of the race, Wildschutt wound up the pace over the last few laps to secure victory in 13:30.38.

Gelant did well to hold on for second place in 13:34.04 and Precious Mashele finished third in 13:35.19.

Runners suffer in the heat

And there was carnage in the women’s 10 000m final, following a terrible decision to hold the race at 2.30pm in blazing conditions.

Karabo Mailula, who was lying second for most of the race, collapsed with two laps remaining and was stretchered off the track.

Glenrose Xaba won the national 10,000m title for the seventh time in her career, clocking 32:56.29.

Grabbing her second gold medal of the week, after winning the 5,000m final two days earlier, Xaba completely dominated over 25 laps, finishing more than three minutes ahead of her nearest opponent, Cacisile Sosibo (36:03.70).

“I wanted to run a faster time but the heat was hitting me hard and with three kilometres left I started to fall back because it was very hard to maintain my pace. Hot conditions play a role,” said Xaba.

“But we can’t complain. It is what it is and we just need to move on and focus on another race.”

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athletics Wayde van Niekerk