South African long jumper Ruswahl Samaai (© Getty Images)
No one saw it coming, not even Rushwal Samaai himself, but the Commonwealth and African bronze medallist shattered his long jump PB to provide the top performance of the South African Championships in Stellenbosch.
His first-round leap of 8.38m (1.4m/s) effectively signalled the end of the competition. Samaai took two more attempts, both fouls, before passing his last three, and he ended up winning by more than half a metre.
“It’s incredible,” said the 23-year-old, whose best before the competition was 8.13m, set at altitude last year. “I have no words to describe my feelings. I feel blessed because my goal today was 8.20m. But 8.38m? I don’t know what to say!”
Samaai’s mark moves him to second on the national all-time list and sixth on the African all-time list. More importantly, it puts him in the frame to challenge for medals at this year’s IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015.
“The most important thing now is that I stay injury free,” he added. “I have always looked up to Godfrey (Mokoena) and Zarck (Visser) and I know I will have to work hard to keep up with them.”
Stephen Mokoka was the other stand-out performer of the two-day championships, which ran from Friday to Saturday (17-18).
The World University Games champion dominated the two longest distance races on the track. First he won the 10,000m in 28:15.56, and then he was back on track 24 hours later for the 5000m.
But instead of just sitting and kicking, Mokoka went out hard and was rewarded with a national record of 13:11.44, smashing his PB by more than 14 seconds and running well inside the World Championships qualifying time.
Several other athletes also achieved qualifying performances for Beijing.
National record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, the African and Commonwealth silver medallist, won the 400m in a season’s best of 44.91. Almost a second behind, 19-year-old Jon Seeliger clocked a PB of 45.85 to finish runner-up.
African record-holder and 2011 world bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen won her 10th national title in the javelin. Her 64.14m was more than enough to win, putting her nearly 15 metres ahead of her nearest opponent.
Following his wind-assisted sub-20-second run in Texas last month, world and Olympic finalist Anaso Jobodwana was a comfortable winner of the 200m. His winning time of 20.35 (-0.1) was the fastest he has achieved on South African soil.
The two big favourites in the 400m hurdles finals lived up to expectation. LJ van Zyl, the 2011 world bronze medallist, won the men’s final in 49.29, while African champion Wenda Nel took the women’s title in 55.27.
Close throws finals
Two of the tightest competitions came in the men’s throwing events.
After taking gold and silver respectively at last year’s African Championships, Orazio Cremona and Jaco Engelbrecht renewed their rivalry in the shot. Just eight centimetres separated them at the end of the first round with Engelbrecht leading 19.93m to Cremona’s 19.85m. Both athletes improved in round four with Cremona taking the lead with 20.49m and Engelbrecht now trailing by eight centimetres.
Engelbrecht improved in the following round with 20.45m, but Cremona – who rounded out his series with 20.36m and 20.45m – had done just enough to win.
The men’s discus was similar. Russel Tucker took an early lead with 60.58m in round one, little more than a metre farther than Victor Hogan’s opener. Tucker improved in round two to 61.38m, but Hogan snatched the lead in the third round with 62.62m.
Tucker improved to 62.18m in round four, but Hogan increased his lead, throwing 62.86m in round five to hold on to the win.
South Africa’s leading middle-distance runners duly delivered in their events, Andre Olivier winning the 800m in 1:46.02 and Johan Cronje taking the 1500m in 3:37.93.
Elsewhere, Commonwealth and African champion Godfrey Mokoena won the triple jump with 16.63m. 41-year-old Chris Harmse won his 20th national title in the hammer, throwing 71.98m.
Both 100m finals were run into a -2.1m/s headwind. Akani Simbine won the men’s title in 10.25 while Carina Horn took the women’s crown in 11.40.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF