A New Wave is Coming and South Africa is Bringing the Change
Something big is happening in African athletics and it’s coming on fast. Most long distance races are common routine for Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, (and once in a blue moon Uganda), battling with such dominance that the top two can sweep up to six top positions between them.
That rivalry has been as long as the races themselves. It’s common knowledge not to expect less. On the shorter side, there is good reason South Africa should be woefully jumping at the prospect of being the next dominant face of athletics.
The country’s young generation of possible future stars made headlines showcasing what could be of its national youth team that produced one of South Africa’s most impressive performances at a major international championship, at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017.
Trailing off a bit, remember Wayde van Niekerk is already tweaking a feeling that he could potentially take over Usain Bolt’s throne. Caster Semenya is as always, an ever mouth-gaping and applauding pride.
But these two may not be the only stand out track athletes changing the shape of the sport, South Africa may be having a whole new breed of a crop. The nation leads the U18 Championships table with 11 medals of which 5 are gold and for that sweet enchanting medal, four track disciplines are proud winners.
They are the following from sex; M 100m, M 200m, M 400m hurdles (84.0cm) and F 400m hurdles. Gold wasn’t enough, more of the same disciplines sensationally sneaked in for the silver medal, with the males taking the 100m and 200m. The podium wouldn’t be complete without bronze, which the mix 4x400M relay discipline won.
Then came Breyton Poole who just owned the high jump. But let’s not derail too much from the fact that South Africa has just unleashed what could just well be the next runaway stars, in more than one form.
In the boys’ 100m final, Tshenolo Lemao became the first South African to win a medal over the distance at a world championship in any age division.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It was a great race to run. I was really excited going into it and I just wanted to go all out,”[/perfectpullquote]
the historic performer said.
Lemao added, “I knew the conditions would be tough, but I told myself I needed to stay strong and focused, and just go.”
Just like a tit-for-tat, Retshidisitswe Mlenga who lost the first position to Lemao in the 100m, had a taste of his own glory in the 200m, in which he left his fellow compatriot in the second position.
“I came in very focused, having made a mistake in the 100m final, which is my favorite race,” Mlenga said. “I followed my coach’s instructions and I’m very happy to have won a gold medal.”
What a day in the office it must have been for the federation.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”What we have achieved is beyond expression. We are very much excited with what our youth team has achieved. It’s not every day you top the world. We are world champions and it feels to be perched at the top. We would like to get used to this going forward,”[/perfectpullquote]
said Athletics South Africa president, Aleck Skhosana.
“SA coaches are climbing the ladder and proving to the world nothing is impossible. Well done to all athletes and the rest of the support team who work behind the scenes.”
For Lemao, it was equally another good day in the office saying, “I am in good form and I went into the race knowing that. I am happy we took both gold and silver again.”
Athletics in South Africa is opening the doors for a country that has never previously won a 100m medal of any color at the World U18 Champions, and yet they took two spots.
Here is the medal table list.
Featured Photo: Retshidisitswe Mlenga and Tshenolo Lemao of South Africa after winning silver and Gold, respectively, in the men’s 100m final at the IAAF World U18 Championship at the Kasarani Stadium, in Nairobi, Kenya. (Gallo Images)