19 August 2013
Johan Cronje claimed a somewhat unexpected bronze in the 1 500 metres on Sunday to ensure South Africa did not come away from the IAAF World Championships in Moscow without a medal.
Cronje has been in the best form of his life this year, and in May broke the South African record over the distance that had belonged to Johan Landsman since 1993, clocking 3:33.46 – an improvement of a tenth-of-a-second on the previous mark.
In Sunday’s final, there was a clear favourite in the form of Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, who had run the fourth-fastest time ever in the event at a Diamond League Meeting in Monaco in July, crossing the line in 3:27.72. Backed by fellow Kenyans Nixon Chepseba and Silas Kipligat in the final, he would be almost impossible to beat.
Had Kiprop opted to take it out hard from the start with his compatriots, as had been the rumour before the race, Cronje would have found it difficult to finish among the medals. However, when Kiprop opted for a slower pace before putting in a fast final 400 metres – he clocked 53.22 over the last lap – it played into Cronje’s hands.
The South African is at his best in a more tactical race, so Kiprop’s tactics gave him a chance of recording the biggest result of his life.
The Kenyan star was simply untouchable over the last lap, his massive, loping strides taking him comfortably clear of the opposition in a winning time of 3:36.28.
Matthew Centrowitz of the USA, a bronze medal winner at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in 2011 and the winner of silver in the London Olympics, came through for second place in 3:36.78.
Cronje hugged the inside of the track and with a determined effort managed to squeeze past Chepseba for third in 3:36.83, four-hundredths-of-a-second ahead of the Kenyan.
Some decent performances
On the whole, South African athletes turned in sub-standard performances, but given the ongoing problems in the administration of the sport that should not have come as a surprise. There were, however, some decent performances from athletes who did not medal.
Willem Coertzen set an African record in the decathlon of 8 343 points, which was good for ninth place, while Victor “Hulk” Hogan placed fifth in the men’s discus with a best throw of 64.35 metres.
Anaso Jobodwana impressed in the 200 metres, running 20.13 a number of times, including in the final in which he finished sixth. He was also second to Usain Bolt in the 100 metres heats in 10.17 and fourth in the semi-finals in the same time.
Khotso Mokoena picked up seventh place with a best leap of 8.10 metres in a high class long jump final, while Sunette Viljoen was sixth in the women’s javelin with a distance of 63.58 metres.