SA’s Relay Woes Continue as Duplantis Soars Again

South Africa’s last shot at a medal on the track at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest went up in smoke as the men’s 4x100m relay team failed to complete their race in the showpiece final on Saturday night. There was a distinct sense of déjà vu, as a similar dropped baton scenario as the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 played out on the back stretch of the track.

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This time it was the second changeover between Benjamin Richardson and Clarence Munyai that proved to be the problem, as Akani Simbine stood waiting on the home straight for the baton that never arrived. Explaining what happened, Munyai said: “It’s not nice obviously because we did quite well yesterday [in the heats], and coming into today, we were looking forward to competing.”

“Obviously, it’s my mistake, because I’m the senior guy and the change wasn’t good – he missed my hand, as my hand was moving. I was looking forward, so I didn’t see at the back, but I take the blame, it’s one of those things where it happens in sport, but you just have to bounce back and hopefully the next one we can put it together.”

Both the men’s and women’s 4x100m relay titles were won by the USA, with Noah Lyles anchoring the US men home and claiming a third gold medal to go with his winning efforts in the 100m and 200m finals. In the women’s team, Sha’Carrie Richardson added a second gold to her haul, having won the 100m and finished third in the 200m.

Earlier in the day, Irvette van Zyl “survived” the blisteringly hot conditions to finish the marathon in her first World Championship appearance. She crossed the line in 2:38:32, thus securing 45th place out of 77 starters. Having failed to finish two Olympic marathons and not even making the start of the third that she was supposed to compete in because of injury, just reaching the finish in Budapest was Van Zyl’s main mission on Saturday.

“It was just proving to myself today that I can,” she said after the race, which was won by Ethiopia’s Amane Beriso in 2:24:23. “I knew I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be, but I just wanted to show to myself if I pitch up injury-free, I can cross the finish line. It was a bit of torture on the route, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful route, and overall I’m really pleased… I don’t think I had a plan today apart from survive and finish.”

Ischke Senekal’s best second-round throw of 16.20m in qualification was not enough to see her through to the women’s shot put final after finishing 32nd overall.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the day’s action was Mondo Duplantis winning the men’s pole vault, retaining the World Champs title he won in 2022 in the USA. He is thus still the reigning Olympic, World and World Indoor Champion. Having won the competition on the night in Budapest with a winning height of 6.10m, he asked the officials to push the bar up to 6.23m, so that he could try to improve his own World Record. His next three jumps saw him come very close to rewriting the record books yet again, but for now his World Outdoor Record of 6:21m and his World Indoor Record of 6.22m remain the highest marks jumped to date.

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Relay team keep Simbine’s world champs medal hopes alive

South Africa’s 4x100m relay team ensured Akani Simbine will have another shot at a medal at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest after being disqualified from his 100m semifinal. The quartet of Shaun Maswanganyi, Benjamin Richardson, Clarence Munyai, and Simbine produced a slick performance to finish second in their heat in 37.72 and book a place in Saturday night’s final.

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Speaking afterwards, Simbine said: “It was good. It feels good to run, it feels good to race, it feels good to be able to be on the track again… I’m happy, happy for the guys, happy for the team, and excited for tomorrow.”

This was Munyai’s first performance at these World Championships, having skipped the individual events. The SA 200m record holder said afterwards: “I was quite excited to be honest because they’ve been running and I also wanted to get out there and come compete. For me it was more excitement than nerves so I’m quite happy.

“We did quite well as a team, we executed and we all ran our legs quite well. We came out here and we wanted to qualify for the final and put a solid time out there… It was good [baton] changes throughout and as a team we trusted each other and I think we did a good job.”

There was disappointment for Prudence Sekgodiso later in the evening in the 800m semifinals. The 21-year-old looked to be in the perfect position to make a move, but around the 450m mark, she clipped the heels of the runner in front of her and fell to the track and out of contention. She nevertheless managed to pick herself up and finish the race.

In the women’s javelin final, Jo-Ané fell short of her own expectation, her best on the night was a third-round throw of 57.43m to finish in 10th place.

“For me, it was just amazing to be in the final. It was great, it was really what I planned to come and do here but I’m a little disappointed with how I performed. I think there’s a lot more that I could have done but on the day I didn’t do what I could. I had a little problem with my rhythm in the first and second throws so it just wasn’t my day today but it was a great competition and always good to get the experience of being on the world stage.”

Earlier in the day, fellow javelin thrower Douw Smit’s best effort was 75.03m in qualification was not enough to see him through to the final.

 

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Our team on the ground at Budapest have been interviewing all South African athletes after their respective events. To get an inside view into strategy and their thoughts on their performances, click the button below to see for yourself what it takes to compete on a world stage!


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Agony for Simbine while Van Niekerk secures semifinal spot

There was more major championship heartbreak for Akani Simbine after he was disqualified from the 100m semifinals at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday for a false start.

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“I’m disappointed. I’ve never false started on the circuit, never false started at a championship, so I’m just very disappointed,” said a devastated Simbine. “I just know that I moved when the gun said go, because I’m generally a slow starter. But it is what it is.”

In Simbine’s absence in the evening final, it was Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo who brought glory to Southern Africa. The 20-year-old star stormed to a silver medal in a national record time of 9.88 behind American Noah Lyles who took gold in 9.83.

Earlier in the day Wayde van Niekerk cruised to victory in his opening 400m heat in a time of 44.57 to qualify for the semifinals. Zakithi Nene made a blunder at the end of his race to allow two athletes in front of him at the finish to deny him automatic qualification. His time of 44.88 was enough to see him safely through to the semifinals as one of the fastest losers, however.

Speaking after the race, Van Niekerk said: “The heats and the semifinals are about surviving so I had to read my competitors and gauge off of them. That’s what I did in the heats and I think it should be a similar strategy in the semis and then in the final we’ll give it what we’ve got left.”

Nene reckoned he would learn from his mistakes, saying: “I judged the race well to about 300 or 320m, and I thought the race was over then before it was even over. So that’s on me, poor judgement of the race but I’ll fix it in the semi.”

Also through to the women’s 400m semifinals was Zeney van der Walt, who is doubling up at these championships – also competing in the 400m hurdles. The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist finished third in her 400m heat in 51.76 to book a spot in Monday’s semifinals. She’ll also be contesting the 400m hurdles heats on Monday, with just over two hours to recover between the two races.

“It feels really great, it feels amazing to advance to the semifinals and I’m very excited,” said Van der Walt. “My coach and I decided to do both events this year to take the challenge and to see how my body can manage it and to use it as a stepping stone here.”

Our team on the ground at Budapest have been interviewing all South African athletes after their respective events. To get an inside view into strategy and their thoughts on their performances, click the button below to see for yourself what it takes to compete on a world stage!


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Simbine and Tshite secure semifinal spots while throwers fall short

Akani Simbine got his World Championships campaign off to a speedy start in Budapest, Hungary on Saturday night, winning his 100m heat in a time of 9.97 seconds. The two-time Olympic finalist is bidding to break his major championship medal drought and become the first African athlete to claim the world title.

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Fellow South African Benjamin Richardson just missed out on reaching the semifinals by a few thousandths of a second. Only the top three in each heat and the three fastest losers progressed. The 19-year-old finished fourth in his heat in 10.17 but two other athletes, Nigerian Usheoritse Itsekiri and Iran’s Hassan Taftian also recorded times of 10.17. When taking the thousands of a second into account, it was Itsekiri who progressed.

“I’m really happy to get that first run out the way, get the win out the way, and just feeling the track,” said Simbine afterwards. “It’s my first time inside the stadium today. Just running and winning and trusting my running pattern, and trusting how I race, and trusting the shape that I’m in, you know it’s paying off.” 

Speaking about South Africa’s chances in the 4x100m relay, Simbine added: “The relay really looks good, everybody must just stay healthy. Benji [Richardson] is young, you know he’s got a good career ahead, he’s going to have a good career like this. I’m looking forward to the relay, looking forward to fighting for the medal that’s also been missing for the longest time, so we shall see.”

Earlier in the evening Tshepo Tshite qualified for the semifinals of the 1500m after finishing second in the slowest heat of the night in 3:46.79. While Ryan Mphahlele ran a much quicker time of 3:39.16 in his heat to finish 10th, new World Athletics rules for the longer distances meant he missed out as only the top six in each heat progressed to the next round.

“The race was tactical but remember, this year the criteria have changed. It’s not all about how fast you run, it’s all about making sure that you’re in the top six. I think that was the reason the race was tactical,” explained Tshite.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s throwers struggled on Saturday with Olympic finalist Kyle Blignaut (18.82m) and Burger Lamprechts (19.52m) failing to qualify for the shot put final while Victor Hogan fell short in discus qualification, his 61.80m effort seeing him finishing in 27th place.

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Ed’s World Champs Blog: Personal Highlights – Brought to you by PUMA

So, we’re coming up for day 7 of the World Athletics Champs in Eugene in the USA, and what a Champs it has turned out to be. I’ve seen various colleagues, friends and other fans of track and field on social media talking about goosebumps, and getting emotional, as they’ve watched the action live – even when it required staying up till the early hours of the morning to catch the action live. – BY SEAN FALCONER

There is a nine-hour time difference between SA and Eugene, Oregon, on the West Coast of the USA, so the evening sessions of the World Champs generally start around 2am our time, and continue till 5am or 6am, so I reckon there are a few rather sleep-deprived athletics fans this side of the Atlantic after a week of action.

Yes, there were a few issues with some athletes not able to get to the USA due to VISA issues, but in general, this has been a terrific meet. I’m not even going to try to list all the top performances here, as there have been so many, but I would like to mention some personal highlights that I particularly enjoyed.

  • I take my hat off to Akani Simbine for reaching yet another global 100m final. I know he will be bitterly disappointed to have finished fifth, having also narrowly missed out on a medal at the 2017 World Champs (fifth), 2016 Olympics (fifth), 2019 World Champs (fourth) and 2021 Olympics (fourth), but it shows just how much he has done to raise the bar of men’s sprinting in this country. It wasn’t so long ago that we still didn’t have any sub-10-second runners in this country, and the prospects of a South African making a World Champs or Olympic 100m final was so beyond our wildest dreams. Akani has been a genuine medal contender at every big meet since 2017, and for that alone he deserves huge praise.
  • Staying with the sprints, it has been phenomenal to see the rapid emergence of Luxolo Adams as a world class sprinter this year. He’s been bubbling just under the top level until now, but found his best form just before the World Champs, with his scintillating 19.82 in the Diamond League meet in Paris. Now he is in the men’s 200m final at the World Champs! I don’t think anybody would have predicted that if asked just a few months ago.
  • And of course, at the risk of repeating myself, hasn’t it been fantastic to see Wayde van Niekerk fit and racing again? And even better, back in a global final, where he belongs! That freak knee injury a few years back – in a charitable touch rugby game, of all places – looked like it may have wrecked his career, and many of us wondered if he would ever get back to the shape that saw him win the 2016 Olympic and 2017 World 400m titles, and set that amazing World Record of 43.03 seconds. Even if he doesn’t quite get to that same level as 2016 again – after all, he is six years older now – it remains a privilege to watch him running what is often referred to as the most brutal event on the track.

Anyhoo, enough rambling from me for one blog, let’s look ahead to see what’s coming up next.

Day 7 (21 July) – Afternoon Session

SA Time     US Time     Event                                          Round

02:05          17:05          Men’s Javelin Throw                    Qualification – Group A

02:10          17:10          Women’s 800m                            Heats

03:10          18:10          Men’s 5000m                               Heats

03:20          18:20          Men’s Triple Jump                       Qualification

03:35          18:35          Men’s Javelin Throw                    Qualification – Group B

04:00          19:00          Men’s 800m                                 Semi-Final

04:35          19:35          Women’s 200m                            Final

04:50          19:50          Men’s 200m                                 Final

 

Day 8 (22 July) – Morning Session

SA Time     US Time     Event                                          Round

15:15          06:15          Women’s 35km Race Walk           Final

 

Day 8 (22 July) – Afternoon Session

SA Time     US Time     Event                                          Round

02:05          17:05          Men’s Pole Vault                         Qualification

02:40          17:40          Women’s 4x100m Relay               Heats

03:05          18:05          Men’s 4x100m Relay                    Heats

03:20          18:20          Women’s Javelin Throw               Final

03:35          18:35          Women’s 800m                            Semi-Final

04:15          19:15          Women’s 400m                            Final

04:35          19:35          Men’s 400m                                 Final

04:50          19:50          Women’s 400m Hurdles               Final

 

SOUTH AFRICANS IN ACTION…

Watch for our local heroes in the following events:

 

Day 7 – Afternoon Session

Men’s Javelin Qualifiers

Group A – Johan Grobler

Women’s 800m Qualifiers

Heat 5 – Prudence Sekgodiso

Men’s 5000m Qualifiers

Heat 1 – Adriaan Wildschutt

Heat 2 – Precious Mashele

Men’s 200m Final

Luxolo Adams

 

Day 8 – Afternoon Session

Men’s 400m Final

Wayde van Niekerk

 

Enjoy the viewing, and chat later again.

(Image: courtesy World Athletics)