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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Andre Olivier © Gallo Images

Six carry SA hopes at Indoor Worlds



South Africa has its hopes of winning silverware at this weekend's IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, pinned on a team of six athletes.

The team will be spearheaded by men's 800m ace Andre Olivier and national long jump champion Zarck Visser.

Olivier, an Olympic semifinalist is the second fastest in the world after he ran a time of one minute, 44.52 seconds (1:44.52) in only his first race indoors in Birmingham in mid-February.

He will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the country's most successful indoors athlete with a gold medal in 2004 and two silver medals in 2006 and 2008.

The 800m has been without a doubt South Africa's biggest event with Johan Botha laying the foundation with gold back in 1999.

Olivier's biggest competition will come from the world 800m outdoor champion from Moscow in 2013, Mohammed Aman. The Ethiopian has the fastest time in the world this year and is undefeated.

Oliver said he felt confident ahead of the championships following an intense build-up.

"The main goal is not about thinking about times or national records but just getting into that final and getting a medal," he said at the team's departure for Poland on Tuesday.

"I'm sure Aman is going to be the man to beat as he's been the last year or so indoors and outdoors."

Visser, on the other hand will hope to walk in the footsteps of Olympic silver medallist and training partner Khotso Mokoena, who has won gold in 2008 and silver in 2010 in the long jump at the indoor championships.

He jumped a distance of 8.28m at a University of Johannesburg meeting last week, while he also reached 8.55m in training last Monday.

Visser said the distanced indicated that he was in good shape and he felt in the right shape of mind to possibly challenge for a medal.

"I am just happy to go and I know I am ready. I've prepared well over the past two weeks and all I can do is hope for the best," Visser said.

"The goal is to give it my best, last year I had a few setbacks at the world championships [in Moscow] and this time around I am just there to compete."

The 24-year-old Visser said he had received encouragement from Mokoena, who believed he had the potential to return with the silverware.

"He said I should just go for this one because he believes I've got the capability of doing it and I should just jump," Visser said.

Another member of the team with a wealth of potential is Elroy Gelant, who has already broken the South African 3000m indoor record twice in the last month.

He ran an impressive 7:45.45 in France before breaking the record again with a 7:39.55 in Gent, Belgium.

His time is also faster than the outdoor South African record of 7:41.06 over the same distance.

At the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Turkey, Gelant finished 12th in the final and will be hoping for a top-six finish.

Carina Horn will be the country's only women representative and has been consistent on the European indoor circuit over the past month.

She ran a personal best of 7.28 seconds and will be aiming for Wendy Harman's national indoor record of 7.15 seconds she set in 1999.

Meanwhile, shot put men Orazio Cremona and Jaco Engelbrecht will be competing indoors for the first time.



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