Namibian sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi stole the show on Wednesday evening, opening the ASA Athletics Grand Prix Series to some spectacular performances at the Mangaung Athletics Stadium in the Free State.
Mboma, who secured the 200m silver medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, won the women’s 100m race in 11.15, clocking the second quickest time in the world this year. Only Jamaican athlete Brianna Lyston (11.14) has run faster in 2022.
“It was a great race. I didn’t expect to run this time, so I’m happy with it,” said 18-year-old Mboma. “It’s my second 100m race of the year and I’m hoping to get faster.”
Masilingi finished behind her in 11.24, while South African athlete Shirley Nekhubui took advantage of the fast race to set a personal best of 11.49 in third.
“It was a competitive race against my training partner. It’s still early in the season, but things are looking good,” Masilingi said. “We’ll be leaving for the United States in a few weeks where we are planning to run some races in Texas.”
In the men’s shot-put circle, Olympic finalist Kyle Blignaut was handed a rare defeat to the second place with a best heave of 20.43m, where Jason van Rooyen’s winning effort landed at 20.64m.
“We had a long week, and I’m coming back from Covid, so I didn’t expect to do as well as I did,” Van Rooyen said. “My body still felt flat, so I’m grateful.”
Competing for the first time since he finished sixth at the Olympics last year, Blignaut said he is looking forward to the rest of the season and is confident he can go further.
“My training has gone back to normal and I feel like I’m 100% back,” Blignaut said. “I lost a bit of distance and a bit of progress, but that’s normal after a six-week break, so hopefully I can keep improving and get some big distances this season.”
On the track, 19-year-old Marione Fourie again threatened to break the 13-second barrier in the women’s 100m hurdles, winning her specialist discipline in a personal best of 13.10. Pushing Fourie all the way to the line, Taylon Bieldt also set a career best in second position, clocking 13.15.
A cracking race was also produced in the women’s 400m contest where former world junior 400m hurdles champion Zeney van der Walt completed the one-lap race in 51.90 as she sliced nearly a full second off her personal best in the flat event.
Line Kloster of Norway took second place in 52.34 with Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles bronze medallist Wenda Nel settling for fourth spot in 53.48.
Among other highlights, Alan Cumming won the men’s hammer throw (71.57m) ahead of Tshepang Makhethe (70.26m) and Brian Raats won the men’s high jump on count back ahead of Mpho Links, with both athletes clearing 2.20m.
Helene Peens and Danni Nolte were so evenly matched in the women’s long jump they could not be separated, sharing first place after they both landed at 6.37m.
It was also all smiles for Jovan van Vuuren when he won the men’s long jump with a 8.14m leap. He was followed by Karabo Satekge with a 7.77m jump, while Peter Makgato took the third spot after a 7.65m effort.
Olympic semi-finalist Sibusiso Matsenjwa of the Kingdom of Eswatini won the 100m Grand Prix, clocking 10.50 and relegating Jarryd Crossman to second position with a time of 10.67. Tjaart van der Walt finished third in 10.68.
The second of five legs in the ASA Grand Prix series, which forms part of the World Athletics Continental Tour, will be held in Cape Town on Wednesday next week.
James Moloi, president of ASA, could not contain his excitement: “This is clearly going to be one of the best track and field seasons we have ever had, driven largely by the hunger of athletes to make up for lost time overshadowed by Covid-19 over the past two years,” said Moloi.
“We thank everyone from the athletes, coaches, volunteers, host province, the SAPS and everyone else that was involved.”
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