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.
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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