Tuesday, 11 July 2017 10:31

SA Track & Field: Zazini aims for fast time at Youth Champs

Having set a world youth record in the 400m-hurdles earlier this season, Sokwakhana Zazini is looking forward to the IAAF World Youth Championships in Nairobi (12-16 July), where all competitors' eyes will be on him.

Not many athletes relish running with a "target" on their back, but it does not phase Zazini in the slightest. For the TuksSport High School learner, it is a case of "bring it on if you can".

He makes no secret that he plans on running a speedy time at the Championships, but because of a lower back injury scare, he decided to withhold from any bold predictions.

"Just say I hope to cause quite a surprise with the time I run in Nairobi. My legs will do the talking."

Zazini has reason to be confident. His world record time of 48.84s is nearly three seconds quicker than the second-placed athlete on the IAAF's under-18 rankings. At the South African Junior and Youth Championships, he was victorious in the 400m-hurdles as well as the 400m. His best time in the longer sprint is 46.20s, which is impressive as very few of the local senior athletes have managed to run a faster time.

Zazini has only lost once in local races this season. It was over 400m at the South African Senior Championships.

He will only compete in the 400m-hurdles at the Youth Championships.

Hennie Kriel, who coaches the Tuks-athlete, said what makes Zazini such an exciting prospect is his hunger to succeed.

“I have no doubt that he can be the best since he is a quick learner. We are still working on his hurdling technique to get it to be more efficient, but he is improving all the time,” said Kriel.

If Zazini has it his way, he would prefer to keep on competing in both the hurdles and the 400m, but if forced to choose, he will focus on hurdling.

"I love the 400m-hurdles challenge as it is never just about running as fast as you can. It is the thinking man's race. One moment's lapse of concentration and it could be all over.”

van Niekerk Hopes To Honor Bolt & Take Up Baton

JOHANNESBURG - Willing and able to be the heir to Usain Bolt’s throne as sprinting king, Wayde van Niekerk knows full well that the title won't be handed to him on a platter.
Speaking ahead of Thursday's Lausanne Diamond League meeting where he will be racing his first international 400m of the season, Van Niekerk said the year was about honouring Bolt for his track and field legacy.

“This year is really just time for us to go out there and thank him for what he had done for the sport and, obviously, as the new generation, I would like to take the baton and continue doing great things,” Van Niekerk said at an IAAF Diamond League press conference.

“Obviously, with that comes a lot of hard work and years, so I know for me right now is to focus on my performances and try and pull out good times as an athlete.”

The South African 400m world record-holder has been showing improvements in the shorter distances, racing to new personal bests in the 100, 200, and 300m so far this season.

Van Niekerk sprinted to a new South African 200m record in Kingston, Jamaica last month with a time of 19.84 seconds. He then shaved 0.04 off his 100m time of 9.94 in Velenje, 10 days later.

Last week he added another feather to his cap, when he broke another Michael Johnson world mark as he posted a new 300m world best of 30.81 seconds at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting.

He knocked 0.04 off the previous mark Johnson set in Pretoria back in 2000.

Judging by Van Niekerk’s form over all three distances, the question of whether he would become the first man to dip below 43 seconds over the one-lap sprint has instead changed to when he will do it.

The South African has proven that one can expect the ‘ridiculous’ every time he backs into the blocks.

All eyes will be firmly on the clock in Lausanne, where he will give the best indication of his form ahead of his world title-defence in London next month.

“I feel quite confident on how I’ve been performing so far, I definitely know I am in good shape when it comes to every single distance below 400 metres, except the 400m,” Van Niekerk said.

“I’m excited to see what foot will come first and how I will do, but you know me by now, I will put my best foot forward and try and put a good show out there.”

Five more South Africans will be in action in the Swiss city, including Rio Olympics women’s javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen.

Viljoen has been flying below the radar and will be competing in only her fifth meeting of the season. Her season’s best of 63.49m at the national championships in Potchefstroom in April, ranks her 11th in the world and she would be looking to take some form into the world championships.

South African short-sprint specialists, Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies, will have a second bite of the 100m cherry two days after racing in Budapest.

Simbine narrowly missed out on the top step of the podium when former world champion Justin Gatlin beat him to the line by 0.01 with Bruintjies missing out on a medal by the same margin.

South African record-holder Simbine posted his 14th sub-10 second time for his second place, with Bruintjies clocking a creditable 10.11.

The duo will again line up against Gatlin and fellow American Isiah Young, who finished third in the 100m race in Budapest.

The South African contingent is rounded off by one-lap hurdlers LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks as they look to chase down the A-qualifying standard for the world championships.

They will have to dip well below 49 seconds to earn their places of the global showpiece with the standard set at 48.50.

Van Zyl has a season’s best of 49.29, while Fredericks’ fastest time this year is 49.27.

Eliud Kipchoge sets next attempt at marathon world record

Eliud Kipchoge tried to break two hours in his last marathon. He’ll try to lower the world record at his next one.

The Kenyan Olympic champion entered the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 24, four and a half months after running 2:00:25 at Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon event in Monza, Italy.

“I was very close to breaking the two-hour barrier in Monza,” Kipchoge said in a press release Thursday.

“Now I believe the BMW Berlin Marathon is the perfect venue for attacking the official world record”

Berlin, with its pancake-flat roads, was the site of the last six times the men’s 26.2-mile world record was lowered in the last 14 years, coming down from 2:05:38 to the current mark of 2:02:57.

Kipchoge, 32, won his last Berlin start in 2015, clocking 2:04:00 with his insoles infamously slipping out the back of his shoes and flopping the last half of the race. He also finished runner-up to Wilson Kipsang in 2013.

Kipchoge is believed to be primed to break the 2:02:57 world record that countryman Dennis Kimetto ran in Berlin in 2014.

On May 6, Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s staged sub-two-hour marathon attempt on a Formula One race track. It was contested under special conditions that made it ineligible for record purposes with pacers entering mid-race.

Before that, Kipchoge won five straight major marathons, including the Rio Olympics in 2:08:44 in conditions not suitable for a fast time. He won the Olympic marathon by 70 seconds, the largest margin of victory since Frank Shorter won in 1972.

The other marquee fall marathon — New York City — is a more difficult course and not suited for world-record chasing.

Kipchoge withdrew from selection for Kenya’s team for the world championships in London in August.