So close for Viljoen, Semenya on song

10 August 2012

South African canoeist Bridgitte Hartley won a bronze medal, Sunette Viljoen narrowly missed out on one, Caster Semenya showed off her best form of the season, and Willem Coertzen proved himself one of the best all-round athletes in the world at the Olympic Games in London on Thursday.

For javelin ace Viljoen, the result was a big disappointment; she had entered the Olympics with the year’s best throw of 69.35 metres. Then, she topped her qualifying group, needing only one throw to better the required automatic qualifier mark, with a distance of 65.92m.

In Thursday evening’s competition, Viljoen started off promisingly with an opening throw of 64.63m. Defending champion Barbora Spotakova responded with a distance of 66.90, while the German, Christina Obergfoll, posted a mark of 65.16 metres.

Distances dropped

Unfortunately, after that Viljoen’s night failed to get better as her marks dropped to 62.71m in round two, a lowly 57.30m and 57.05m in rounds two and three, and 60.93m in round five.

By then the South African star had also fallen behind Germany’s Linda Stahl, who had thrown a season’s best 64.91m in the fourth round.

Viljoen gathered herself up for one final, huge effort in the sixth round, but it still came up short of a medal at 62.61m.

Spotakova, by far the most consistent and impressive thrower on the night, captured gold with a mighty heave of 69.55m in the fourth round. Obergfoll and Stahl claimed the other two podium places for Germany.

Mightily impressive

Caster Semenya was mightily impressive in her 800m semi-final heat.

She stayed within touch of the leading runners through the first 400 metres and when she made her move she convincingly eased into the lead to win going away in a season’s best time of 1:57.67.

It was the best that South Africa’s flag bearer has looked in some time and it was also the fastest time of the semi-finals.

Semenya commented afterwards: “I’m very happy to get through to the finals. It was very hard, but I tried my best. I just have to go to my bed.”

200 metres

Anaso Jobodwana faced a massive challenge in the final of the men’s 200 metres, going up against a field that included Usain Bolt, the world record holder at 19.19 seconds, and Yohan Blake, who ran 19.26 in Brussels last year.

The South African sprinter, who turned 20 on 30 July, had an unfavourable lane draw, right on the outside, and unfortunately he failed to reproduce the form that had earned him a spot in the final as he came home in eighth place in 20.59 seconds.

That result should not take away from his achievement of reaching the final of the event in his first visit to the Olympic Games. His performances were somewhat surprising, but very welcome.

Victory went to Bolt, who completed back-to-back Olympic sprint doubles by winning, in a time of 19.32 seconds. Blake was second in a very fast 19.44 and Warren Weir finished third to complete a Jamaican 1-2-3.

Decathlon

Decathlete Willem Coertzen shone on day two of the decathlon. He won his 110m hurdles heat in a personal best time of 14.15 seconds and followed that up with another personal best, throwing the discus 43.58m.

Next, in the pole vault, he cleared 4.50m. His distance of 64.79m with the javelin was sixth best among the decathletes.

In the final event, the 1 500m, Coertzen was second in his heat in the third best time of all, clocking 4:26.52.

That left him on 8 173 points, in ninth place.

American athletes finished one-two as world record holder Ashton Eaton took victory ahead of Trey Hardee. Cuba’s Leonel Suarez finished third.

4 by 400m relay drama

There was drama in the men’s 4 by 400 metres relay heats for South Africa.

Running in the first of two heats, the team, which had won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2011, failed to finish following a collision between second leg runner Ofentse Mogawane and Kenya’s Vincent Mumo Kiilu, which sent the South African crashing to the ground.

Mogawane injured his left shoulder in the fall and had to be helped from the track. Meanwhile, third leg runner Oscar Pistorius, realising his dream of possibly winning an Olympic medal was over, put his hands to his head and left the track.

Trinidad and Tobago went on to win the heat ahead of Great Britain, Cuba and Belgium. The South African team’s management, not happy with the collision that had taken the team out of the race, protested.

Appeal upheld

Their appeal was upheld when the referee ruled that Kiilu had cut across Mogawane, causing him to fall. A decision was then made to put South Africa through to the final.

The team’s last leg runner, Willem de Beer tweeted: “Appeal successful!! 4x400m relay will run in lane 1 out of the 9 lanes. Nobody is taken out. Grace alone!! I will get to run in the Games!!”

Pistorius wrote: “Thank you Lord! Emotional roller coaster!”

LJ van Zyl will replace the injured Mogawane in the final. He ran the anchor leg in Daegu when South African won the silver medal at the World Championships.

BMX

Sifiso Nhlapo failed to make the semi-finals of the BMX competition after he finished fifth three times and sixth twice in his quarterfinals races.

There was some zip missing from the two-time World Championship silver medallist’s form and he chose to play it a little too safe, which cost him in the end.

He told the South African Press Association: “I just managed to stay safe, but this weekend staying safe isn’t enough.”

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