SA star athlete heads to Beijing

Khanyi Magubane

South Africa’s star athlete Khotso Mokoena has done it again. Standing at almost two metres, Mokoena has qualified to compete in the long jump at the Beijing Olympics. He launched a phenomenal leap of 8,24m with his first effort at the South African Track and Field Championships on 14 March in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

This will be his second participation at the Olympic games. In 2004, when he was only 19, he came fourteenth in the triple jump contest in Greece.

Earlier in March this year, Mokoena produced a gold medal-winning performance at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain. The 22-year-old athlete was competing against Britain’s Christopher Tomlinson in a tight final on 8 March.

Tomlinson initially led the competition with his 8.06m jump, while Mokoena opened with 8.05m. The two men were neck-and-neck until Mokoena became the clear winner with his final leap of 8.08m. The British jumper claimed the silver medal, while Mohamed Salman Al Khuwalidi of Saudi Arabia picked up the bronze.

Another South African athlete who excelled at the IAAF games was 800m star Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who, despite being the national record holder, had to settle for a silver medal in the race. Sudanese athlete Abubaker Kaki Khamis won the coveted gold medal.

Since the start of its participation at the World Indoor championships in the 1990s, South Africa has won eight medals. Mulaudzi has claimed three of those medals in the 800m. Apart from his silver this year and his gold medal win 2004, he also won silver in 2006. Johan Botha was a gold medal winner in the 800 metres in 1999 and won silver in 2001. Okkert Brits took a bronze in the pole vault in 1995 and sprinter Shaun Bownes walked away with a bronze medal in the 60m hurdles in 2001.

Who is Khotso Mokoena?

Khotso Mokoena is a rising star in South African athletics. He might only be 22 years old, but he already has a long list of awards to his name. In 2004, the same year he first competed in the Olympic Games, Mokoena won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships for his triple jump of 16.77m.

By the time he was 20, Mokoena was the holder of all South African records in the long jump and triple jump. He has entered just about all the major athletic contests around the world, where he has hardly returned home without a medal. In 2006, he won a silver medal for South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Sydney, Australia for his triple jump.

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