Champs given another shot at Olympics
The national student championships hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) this weekend will give South Africa's top athletes another shot at joining the Olympic squad.
Almost 700 athletes from 21 tertiary institutions will participate in the annual University Sport South Africa (USSA) track and field championships at the Kingsway Campus, in Westdene, on Friday and Saturday.
Successful London 2012 qualifiers such as 400m hurdler LJ van Zyl (Tuks), javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen (NW-Pukke) and marathon runner Steven Mokoka (TUT) will be in action. The entry of 800m runner Caster Semenya (Tuks) has not been confirmed.
UJ athletics manager Thabiso Moletsane said it was an honour to host the event in an Olympic year.
He said it was also an opportunity for participants to enjoy the one-of-a-kind blue tartan track – one of just three IAAF-registered tracks in South Africa.
"It's actually the fastest track in the country at the moment, so we're expecting some good performances."
Moletsane said the stadium's new layout would ensure a smooth-flowing programme and all the technical advantages possible.
"For example, we have four long jump, triple jump and pole-vault run-ups, which take the effect of the prevailing winds into account."
Moletsane said there were a number of student athletes who were very close to attaining the Olympic standard.
Long jumper Zarck Visser (UJ) made the grade at the national championships in Port Elizabeth two weeks ago, but strong winds meant his 8.21m distance could not be officially recorded.
In the 400m hurdles, Wenda Theron (Tuks) will be chasing the elusive 55.40 second qualifying time, after clocking her personal best (55.79) at the same meet.
Runner Rorisang Ramonnye (NW-Pukke), who came within two hundredths of a second of the required 400m time (51.50), will also be one to watch.
Other hopefuls include pole-vaulter Cheyne Rahme, shot-putter Jaco Engelbrecht and 3 000m steeple-chaser Tumelo Motlagale, who will all have home-ground advantage.
To be eligible for the London Olympic Games in August, athletes must achieve A-standard qualifying marks at least once nationally and once internationally before June 30.
The USSA championships will be the penultimate opportunity to qualify nationally for the Games.
Although Kovsies' Thuso Mpuang (200m) and NW-Pukke's Thabang Moeng (200m), Tsholofelo Thipe (200m and 400m) and Simon Magakwe (100m and 200m) have already met the mark locally, they are still seeking an international qualifying time.
Their last opportunity on local soil will be the SA Open Championships in Pretoria next weekend. After that, the African champs in Porto Novo, Benin, on June 27 will present their final chance.