The South African team brushed aside multiple technical issues on Wednesday morning, coasting through unscathed in the opening session of the African Athletics Championships in Durban.
Sprinters Akani Simbine (10.27sec), Thando Roto (10.36s) – a late replacement for national champion Henricho Bruintjies who withdrew due to a hamstring injury – and teenager Gift Leotlela (10.47s) all finished among the top three in their heats of the men’s 100m event, progressing to the semifinals.
While Ivorian speedster Ben Youssef Meite was the fastest of the first-round qualifiers, clocking 10.22 seconds, Simbine took his foot off the pedal and coasted across the line, indicating he would line up among the favourites in the penultimate round on Wednesday afternoon.
Though all athletes looked to be on fire in the opening round, blitzing to fast times, there were problems with the clock at the side of the track and the official times were significantly slower than those first indicated.
In the women’s 100m heats, national record holder Carina Horn also had no trouble, winning her heat in 11.46sec, while compatriot Tebogo Mamathu crossed the line in 11.86s for second place in her first-round race, as they both booked their places in the semifinals.
While SA champion Alyssa Conley had been entered in the 100m contest, she had opted out on the eve of the event, in order to focus on the 200m later in the week.
She was not officially removed from the start lists and was forced to line up, seemingly false-starting on purpose in order to rest up for the half-lap dash.
Bizarrely, Conley was listed among the fastest performers in the results, despite not finishing, though this was later amended and she was removed after it was discovered athletes had been placed in the wrong lanes.
Marie Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast was the fastest qualifier, clocking 11.35s, with compatriot Murielle Ahoure, the African record holder, recording a time of 11.42s.
Accumulated points had not yet been released after three events in the men’s decathlon, though Willem Coertzen and fellow South African Fredriech Pretorius got off to a decent start in the gruelling two-day combined events discipline.
Coertzen was second-fastest in the 100m in 11.07s, with Pretorius setting the third-quickest time of 11.10s, while the duo ended first and second in the long jump, with Coertzen leaping 7.27m and Pretorius launching a best attempt of 7.26m.
Coertzen was fourth-best in the shot put (13.76m) and Pretorius was sixth (13.30m).
The first finals of the continental championships will be held in Wednesday’s afternoon session, with the men’s 10 000m and shot put events scheduled, along with the women’s hammer throw.