Night of mixed fortunes for SA’s athletes at start of world competition.
It was a day of mixed emotions on the opening day of the IAAF World Championships in London on Friday night.
The London organising committee pulled out all the stops by staging a memorable opening night in front of a sold-out crowd of 55 000 that created an electrifying atmosphere.
Athletics is the number one Olympic sport and it certainly lived up to its billing on a glorious night that saw Olympic superstars Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, who ran in his final 10 000m final before he hanging up his spikes, raise the roof with excitement. Five years ago, all eyes were on London during the successful hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games.
It is the first time that London is hosting the event, which is dubbed the World Cup of athletics. About 2 000 athletes from more than
100 countries will compete in the 10-day event.
Records are expected to tumble and new personal bests set in the coming days. Without a doubt, the highlight of the opening day was Britain’s Farah winning his third 10 000m title in his last appearance to get a deserved standing ovation and the loudest cheer in the stadium.
Farah clocked 26:49:51 in an entertaining race to beat Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui (26:49:94) and Kenyan Paul Tanui (26:50:60) to the highest place on the podium.
The world watched one of the greatest athletes of all time for the last time.
One of the most successful track and field Olympians in history, Bolt, also brought some excitement to the track in the men’s 100m heat round six, but it did not quite match Farah, who retired unbeaten from the Olympic Park venue.
Back to the South African contingent, long jumper Zarck Visser and sprint youngster Thando Roto had a night to forget, while middle-distance sensation Stephen Mokoka registered a season best in the men’s 10 000m final. Mokoka finished 20th with 28:14:67 against a strong field.
Star long jumper Luvo Manyonga and Rushwal Samaai were still in contention to win medals as they successfully booked long-jump final spots. Manyonga leapt to an 8.12m distance and Samaai went better by covering 8.14m. The qualifying distance for last night’s final was 8.05m.
Discus thrower Victor also bowed out of the championships in an up and down night for Team SA. Hogan threw 62.26m to finish 18th, but he needed 64.05m to book a place in the final.
But one of Mzansi’s favourite sprinters, Akani Simbine, nearly gave South African fans a heart attack when he ran a 10.15 seconds to finish fourth in the men’s 100m, which nearly cost him a semifinal spot. But he promised to double his effort to make the thrilling 100m final scheduled for late last night on day two. Thando Roto had a world champs debut to forget as he was disqualified for a false start in the same race as US powerhouse Justin Gatlin.
Roto was too distraught to give interviews as he hung his head in shame. He became the second South African to be disqualified from the world champs – Anaso Jobodwana was disqualified in the men’s 100m in Beijing in 2015.
Visser could not go further than 7.66m and he, too, was eliminated in the long jump. He said he was out of shape and didn’t even expect to qualify for the world champs in the first place. He claimed he was surprised to be named in the team.
“I didn’t even expect to be here. I started my season late this year. I didn’t have a great winter and started jumping late April. Mentally, I’m not in the same place as the other guys. I was struggling with my run-ups the whole season. I need to regain my self-confidence. A year ago, I was told that I wouldn’t jump again, but I’m slowly making my way back. It’s back to the drawing board for me.”