Mokoena claims place in Olympic team
1 June 2012
Beijing Games silver medal winner Khotso Mokoena punched his ticket to the London Olympics at an IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday night.
The South African long jump star achieved a best leap of 8.20 metres with his last jump. He had already jumped that distance at home, but the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee's requirement was that he also achieved that distance in international competition.
Mokoena trailed Great Britain's Greg Rutherford heading into the sixth and final round of jumps. However, with his leap of 8.20 metres he passed the Briton's best by five centimetres. Rutherford, however, had one more jump left and with a supreme effort recorded a distance of 8.32 metres, only three centimetres outside his lifetime best to take the win.
Javelin star Sunette Viljoen was another top performer in Rome on Thursday. She had entered the event with a best throw in 2012 of 61.84m, which she achieved on 25 May on Ostrava. Clearly, though, this time around she was in good form, consistently bettering the 60 metres mark.
Then, with her last throw, she unleashed a superb throw of 67.95 metres to take the lead in the competition. Only Barbora Spotakova could better Viljoen with the final throw of the competition. Unfortunately for the South African, like Mokoena, she was beaten at the death as the Czech athlete responded with a world leading throw of 68.65 metres.
Viljoen's throw was, nonetheless, the second-best distance in the world this year and bodes well for London 2012.
Last year, she finished third at the World Championships in a competition regarded as the finest in the history of women's javelin after an African record throw of 68.38m.
For a number of South African athletes, their performances on Thursday night were disappointing.
World Championship bronze medallist LJ van Zyl would have finished last in the 400 metres hurdles had Felix Sanchez not taken a tumble. In the end, he finished seventh in a disappointingly slow 50.33 seconds, more than two seconds behind the winner, Javier Culson.
Cornel Fredericks fared better, although he faded somewhat towards the end of the race. He finished third in 49.21 seconds.
Caster Semenya was never in contention in the 800 metres, finishing eighth in 2:00.07. Fantu Magiso won the event in an Ethiopian record 1:57.56, ahead of Kenyan star Pamela Jelimo and world champion Mariya Savinova, who clocked 1:58.56 in her first outing of the year.
Bolt on song
Simon Magakwe had a bad start in the 100 metres and eased up slightly before the finishing line in last place in 10.33 seconds. World record holder Usain Bolt won the race in a scintillating world leading 9.76 seconds, with fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell in second in 9.91.
Ruben Ramolefi was well out of the running in the 3 000 metres steeplchase and again missed out on an Olympic qualifying time.
Victory went to the Kenyan Paul Koech, who won by more than seven seconds over second placed Abel Kiprop and narrowly missed out on the world record with his time of 7:54.31. The world record stands behind the name of Qatar's Saif Saaeed Shaheen (formerly Stephen Cherono) at 7:53.63.
A South African team contested the 4 by 400 metres relay, but was some way off its best, finishing seventh as Great Britain and Northern Ireland took a comfortable victory over second placed Botswana.
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