Young SA Athletes Make World Champs History
Sprinters Tshenolo Lemao and Retshidisitswe Mlenga did South Africa proud on Wednesday night at the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. – By Mark Etheridge at SASCOC
One-hundred-metre sprinters Tshenolo Lemao and Retshidisitswe Mlenga raced to gold and silver medals in the 100m final, securing the rainbow nation’s first-ever 100m medals at an IAAF World Championships event.
After nerves started took over with two false starts, Lemao ran 10.57, with Mlenga just 0.04 seconds behind. One of the pre-race favourites, Jamaican Tyreke Wilson, admittedly struggling with a painful ankle after earlier action, was third in 10.65.
Although conditions overhead were anything but clear, Lemao was over the moon. ‘It was a great race to run and I was very excited going into the race. Conditions were tough and raining, but I told myself that I need to stay strong, stay fit and focused and just go.’
‘In the semi-final I was disappointed to place second, but I picked myself up. The faulty start played a bit with the mindset – you get frustrated hey, so I just needed to focus.’
Moving on, and Lemao has Friday’s 200m heats to look forward to. ‘I actually enjoy the 200m more, so hopefully that goes as well,’ he said in an understatement of note.
As for silver medallist Mlenga, also touted as one of the favourites, he was just happy to medal.
‘No disappointment, excuses, they beat me fair and square. I’m just happy to medal, the goal here was to medal, gold obviously, but it didn’t go according to plan. Conditions weren’t great and I struggled a bit at the start and then also tensed up a bit at the finish as I saw them coming.’
Admittedly, the SA sprinters’ task was made that much easier due to the absence of powerful nations such as the United States, Great Britain and Russia, but that doesn’t take anything away from this dashing duo. They can only race whoever is alongside them in the starting blocks – and that they did just perfectly!
Staying with track events, sprinters Rose Xeyi (12.18) and Joviale Mbisha (12.27) both went through to the 100m semi-finals.
Their times were ninth and 14th respectively, with the impressive Lorraine Martins of Brazil quickest in 11.85sec.
The boys 800m heats saw Ntuthuko Ndimande rocketing to the front, possibly the nerves getting to the better of him, and when push came to shove he had nothing left, ending more than two seconds off the pace in heat four with a time of 1:56.16. Ethiopia’s Melse Nberet was quickest into the final with a 1:52.53 clocking.
The girls’ 3000m final saw Dipuo Mashishi struggling in tough conditions and she ended 12th in 11:06.60. Ethiopia’s Abersh Minsewo won in 9:24.62.