Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 - Page 24

OLYMPIC GAMES
Wenda Nel
Gift Leotlela
they would still have been declared the winners , but an outright win is always better . Nevertheless , the result has left Paul with even more headaches …
Simon picked up an injury ( and has subsequently been banned for seven years after a repeat doping offence ), and Henricho is still injured . Clarence changed coaches and is working back up to form , and Thando is also struggling for form . This leaves Paul with limited options , but thankfully he can rely on the enthusiastic and classy Shaun , who has thrived in the US while studying on scholarship in Houston , where he is coached by sprinting legends Carl Lewis and Leeroy Burrel . Shaun has the temperament for the big stage and should thrive in Tokyo , so he gives Paul options , and the coach could also make use of Wayde … and with a potential line up of Shaun , Gift , Wayde and Akani , the 4x100m relay team actually look , on paper looks better than the team that won the World Relay title in May .
4x100m Relay Races
Heats – 5 August , from 04h30 SA Time Final – 6 August , 15h50 SA Time
Expect Fireworks ... Men ’ s Marathon
All eyes will be on Eliud Kipchoge to see if the World Record Holder and defending champion ’ s loss in London in 2020 was just a blip on the radar or if the best ever men ’ s marathoner is now finally human . El Kip as he also known looked back to his imperious self in winning the # MissionMarathon in Enschede , Holland in April this year . But snapping at his heels is a trio of Ethiopians who have tasted blood . Shura Kitata won in London in 2020 to hand Kipchoge his first defeat in the marathon since 2013 . Lelisa Desisa won the world title in 2019 and Sisay Lemma was third in London in 2020 .
Experienced Stalwarts
Having recovered from a bout of COVID on top of various niggly injuries , Wenda Nel has set her sights on reaching the women ’ s 400m hurdles final . She made the final at the 2015 World Champs , then won the bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games , so she brings a ton of experience to Tokyo . Another athlete with experience is Dominique Scott-Efurd , who will represent SA in both the 5000m and 10,000m . She competed in the 10,000m in Rio , and is now wiser , stronger and faster , but will have her work cut out for her against the likes of Helen Obiri , Sifan Hassan , Gudaf Tsegay and Letesenbet Gidey , amongst others .
Other stalwarts to look out for will be Rocco van Rooyen in the men ’ s javelin and Ruswahl Samaai in the long jump , both of who will do well to get to their finals . On the road , Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant have been here before when it comes to running for SA . Stephen , in particular , could do something special in the Marathon if he is able to replicate the form he showed in 2019 , when he finished fifth in the marathon at the World Championships .
The Women ’ s marathon will be interesting from a South African perspective , as Gerda Steyn has shown incredible improvement over the last few years and will feel she could make a top 10 placing , possibly even a top five , after her 2:25:28 SA Record in Italy earlier this year . In that same race , Irvette van Zyl showed just what she can do if she remains
Eliud Kipchoge
Elroy Gelant
injury-free , clocking a massive PB of 2:28:40 . This will be Irvette ’ s third appearance at the Olympics , and she will be relishing the opportunity to get rid of the demons of London ( dnf ) and Rio , where a stress fracture prevented her from starting .
The Young Pretenders
While not expected to medal in Tokyo , a number of young athletes from SA can certainly prove their mettle at these Olympics . Leading the charge of the next generation are Shaun and Gift in the 100m , Kyle Blignaut in the shot put and Lythe Pillay in the 4x400m relay , as well as Jo-Ane van Dyk in the women ’ s javelin . Only Gift has been to an Olympics before – he travelled to Rio in 2016 – so this will be an experience these youngsters will take with them into the next eight-year cycle of the 2024 and 2028 Games , when they are likely to be at the pinnacle of their athletic careers .
Gift ( 23 ) and Shaun ( 20 ) could well walk away from their experience in Tokyo with a relay medal , and
Images : Bob Ramsak / Wikimedia , Reg Caldecott & Roger Sedres / ImageSA
24 ISSUE 143 JULY 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za