World Indoor gold for Mokoena

10 March 2008

South Africa claimed a gold and a silver medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain at the weekend, thanks to long jump ace Khotso Mokoena and 800 metres star Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.

Mokoena finished fifth at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka in 2007 after leading the way in qualifying, so his credentials as a genuine title threat could not be discounted. In Valencia, he again proved strong in qualifying, leading the way with a leap of 8.01 metres.

Once in the final, he faced a stiff challenge from Christopher Tomlinson for the gold medal as the pair staged a tightly contested battle.

Close competition
After round one, Tomlinson had the edge, having jumped 8.06m to Mokoena’s 8.05m. In round two, Mokoena flew 8.01m to the Briton’s 8.04m. Round three saw the South African star leaping 8.03m to Tomlinson’s 8.01m.

In round four, Mokoena again leapt 8.03m, while Tomlinson drew a red flag for a no jump. Mokoena finally took the lead in the fifth round, jumping 8.08m, while Tomlinson managed only 7.90m.

Straining for more distance with his final jump, Mokoena overstepped and failed to record a distance, but Tomlinson came up short with his jump of 7.96 metres.

Mokoena’s consistency paid off as he took gold for South Africa, with Tomlinson claiming silver, while Mohamed Salman Al Khuwalidi of Saudi Arabia picked up the bronze after a jump of 8.01 metres.

Outstanding 800 metres final
After an outstanding 800 metres final, SA’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi had to settle for silver behind Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki Khamis, with Yusuf Saad Kamel of Brunei finishing in bronze medal position.

The final’s very fast pace led to many milestones being achieved by the runners: Khamis’ 1:44.81 was the fastest time in the world this year, while Mulaudzi’s 1:44.91 was a South African national record. Kamel’s 1:45.26 was an Asian record, while fourth-placed Dmitrijs Milkevics of Latvia set a national record, and fifth-placed Dmitriy Bogdanov of Russia and sixth-placed Nick Symonds of the USA both recorded personal bests.

The prodigiously talented Khamis, only 18 years old, burst into the lead after the athletes broke from their lanes and was never caught. He took the field through 400 metres in a fast 51.26 seconds and, despite a strong finish from Mulaudzi, managed to hold off the 2004 world indoor champion.

Sixth on the medal table
Thanks to the medal-winning efforts of Mokoena and Mulaudzi, South Africa finished in a tie for sixth with Sweden on the medals table.

In a tremendous battle for first place, the USA edged out Russia by the narrowest of margins. The Americans won five gold medals, which the Russians matched, and three bronze medals, which the Russians again matched. The USA also won five silver medals, just one more than Russia, to finish in the top spot.

Ethiopia finished third, Great Britain fourth and Cuba fifth.

SA at the World Indoor Champs
In total, South Africa has won eight medals at World Indoor Championships, three of which have been claimed by Mulaudzi in the 800 metres. Apart from his silver this year and his win in 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, while Okkert Brits took a bronze in the pole vault in 1995 and Shaun Bownes claimed bronze in the 60 metres hurdles in 2001.

That’s seven medals plus, of course, Khotso Mokoena’s gold in Valencia on Saturday.

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