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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Stephen Mokoka © Gallo Images

Focus on middle distances in Stellenbosch



South Africa's leading distance runners hope to make use of an East African presence as they chase the Olympic 5 000 metres qualifying time at the first Yellow Pages Series meeting of the season in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.

Stephen Mokoka, Elroy Gelant, Gladwin Mzazi and Tshamano Setone will be gunning for the sub-13:20 qualifying standard for the London Games.

Clement Langat of Kenya, who won the senior men's title at the African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town on Sunday, is one of a few athletes who chose to stay behind and leads the foreign contingent on the track at Coetzenburg Stadium.

Mokoka, Gelant and Mzazi had chased the 5 000m qualifier at an inter-provincial meeting in Bellville on March 3, but their attempt was blown away by strong winds which reached speeds of up to five metres per second.

Gelant, who went on to set a new SA indoor 3 000m record at the World Indoor Championships this month, was also ill with flu heading into that race, and will hope to put up a stronger challenge in Stellenbosch.

Peter van der Westhuizen, meanwhile, is after the Olympic 1 500m B-standard time of 3:38.00, while SA record holder Ruben Ramolefi is likely to chase the 8:23.10 A-standard in the men's 3 000m steeplechase.

Van der Westhuizen had targetted the same time in Bellville but he fell short after fighting against the wind, and this week he has the in-form Andre Olivier for company.

While their goal of dipping under 3:38 won't be considered for Olympic selection -- the A standard is 3:35.50 -- Olivier's coach, Jean Verster, said he expected his charge to team up with Van der Westhuizen in search of a fast time.

"Andre is in great shape and if the weather plays along, I expect both him and Peter to possibly go under 3:38," Verster said.

"If there is no pacemaker, then the two will need to work together, but it is definitely on the cards."

In the women's 400m hurdles, Anneri Ebersohn will look to build on her fine form after she clocked a lifetime best of 57.45 seconds at the Gauteng North Championships earlier this month.

Ebersohn ended Wenda Theron's unbeaten streak at home, which had stretched to nearly two years, and she will be eager to produce another solid performance.



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