Johannesburg – Teams from four SADC members Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in this year’s World Athletics Relay Championships last weekend in Poland – and they did not return home empty-handed.
Team SA’s 4x100m men’s quartet secured its first-ever gold medal at the relay championships to automatically qualify for the Tokyo Olympics; while the 4x400m also punched its ticket to the Games.
Botswana’s 4x400m men’s team of Isaac Makwala, Leungo Scotch, Boitumelo Masilo and Ditiro Nzamani took bronze behind the Netherlands and Japan.
SA’s Akani Simbine reinforced his pedigree as one of the quickest and most dangerous sprinters on the planet as he anchored the 4x100m team in snatching victory from Brazil.
The 27-year-old star who is one of South Africa’s Olympic hopefuls, and he ran the final leg of the relay in Poland admirably after a less-than-ideal handover from Clarence Munyai to take the race by one-hundredth of a second to stop the clock at 38.71s.
Athletics South Africa president Aleck Skhosana hailed the team’s performance.
“Congratulations to Coach Paul Gorries‚ athletes‚ manager Danie Cornelius and all medical staff that have been supporting them. I am over the moon as the president of Athletics SA because some people had not seen this project as viable and had strongly opposed it. And when I went to Tshwane to talk about housing the coach‚ athletes and getting all the required services‚ those opposing did not see this line of thinking.
“I knew where I was going with this and today I’m so proud that the boys have made this country proud. Two teams have qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games and we are also world champions in the 4x100m. The last time our Rainbow Nation won the 4x400m event was in 2001 at the World Championships. I also must dedicate this gold medal and the 4x400m Olympic qualifier to the University of Pretoria for their remarkable contribution and for believing in my vision. While others talk about what they want to do‚ we are doing and producing results. So let us be allowed to celebrate the fruits of good work and a fulfilled mandate,” said Skhosana.
The SA men’s 4x400m of Lythe Pillay, Zakhiti Nene, Ranti Dikgale and Oscar Mavundla looked set to secure Olympic qualification before an error in judgement cost them on the final stretch.
Although Pillay ran a strong opening leg and set national champion Nene into the lead, Nene kept up the pressure on his lap behind the Netherlands before taking the lead once more, and passed on the baton to Dikgale, who then shifted into fourth behind the Dutch, Japan and Botswana.
Oscar Mavundla then was then given the stick and sprinted into the lead in his first 150m, but that manoeuvre eventually caught up with him as the tall Dutch athlete Tony van Diepen went clear in the final straight to claim the gold in 3m45s. Second was Japan and then Botswana, with South Africa fading to fifth.
Zambia was making its debut appearance at the championships; and it was represented by female athletes Rhoda Njovu, Lumeka Katundu, Hellen Makumba, Suwilanji Mpondela, Niddy Mingilishi and Abigail Sepeso.
Zimbabwe’s representatives were male sprinters Dickson Kamungeremu, Itayi Vambe, Makanaka Charamba and Rodwell Ndlovu, who participated in the 4x100m.