Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
15 Apr 2021
7:30 am

Wayde van Niekerk headlines classy 200m field at national champs

Wesley Botton

There will also be plenty of attention on Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya as she looks to impress in the longer 5,000m distance.

Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk is expected to run his favourite distance as well as the 200m at the national championships, which start in Pretoria today. Picture: Gallo Images

 

Seven years after Simon Magakwe rocketed over the line to become the first South African to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m dash, a handful of his countrymen will turn out on the same Tuks Stadium track as they look to show just how far local sprinting has come at the SA Senior Track and Field Championships starting in Pretoria on Thursday.

While 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk’s temporary move to the United States is imminent, his agent confirmed on Thursday that he was still waiting for his visa, and he was likely to compete at the three-day domestic showpiece.

With Van Niekerk having entered the 200m and 400m events, the shorter half-lap sprint is expected to produce fireworks.

Aside from Van Niekerk, who earned the 200m silver medal at the 2017 World Championships, the entry list also includes the likes of national 100m record holder Akani Simbine, SA 200m record holder Clarence Munyai and former World Championships bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana.

ALSO READ: What’s next for Wayde van Niekerk?

Attempting the short-sprint double, Simbine will line up as the firm favourite over the blue ribband 100m distance, while Olympic champion Van Niekerk shouldn’t have too much trouble over the 400m distance as he gears up for this year’s Tokyo Games, provided he can shake off junior prodigy Lythe Pillay.

Meanwhile, middle-distance specialist Caster Semenya will have a chance to prove she has what it takes to shine over the 5,000m distance.

Support for Caster Semenya

Athlete Caster Semenya will run the 5,000m at the national championships. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Still suspended from competing in the 800m event at the Olympics due to controversial gender rules, her time won’t be spectacular due to the altitude of the capital city, but Semenya will be eager to prove she has the endurance to match her strength and speed.

In the field, Ruswahl Samaai will have a golden opportunity to take his place on the mantle as South Africa’s best long jumper in the absence of former world champion Luvo Manyonga, who seems to have allowed a recreational drug addiction to bring an early end to his career.

The nation’s elite stars will be competing behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions, with no atmosphere in the stands, but if their form this year is anything to go by, they shouldn’t disappoint.