He was South Africa’s only medallist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but a return to the same city failed to bring any joy to long jumper Khotso Mokoena at the IAAF World Championships on Monday morning.
According to the SASCOC website, none of Commonwealth triple jump champion Mokoena and fellow long jumpers Zarck Visser and Ruswahl Samaai (Commonwealth long jump silver and bronze medallists) made it through to the final in a disappointing morning for this discipline, with none of them able to break the eight-metre mark.
Visser who was racing against time after coming back from an ankle injury was in the A group, had a 7.79m on his second jump and a 7.78m with his third and final attempt but that was only good for eighth spot behind China’s Jianan Wang (8.12m).
Group B saw American Jeff Henderson top the standings with an 8.36m from Olympic champion Greg Rutherford (8.25m).
Mokoena had one legal jump of 7.98m and Samaai had efforts of 7.68m, 7.79m and 7.69m.
That put them ninth and 12th respectively in their group.
The summary of the two groups meant that Mokoena was 13th overall, one spot away from qualifying while Visser and Samaai slotted in at 19th and 20th respectively from 28 jumpers.
It also wasn’t a great day on the track for the SA team as Justine Palframan ended sixth in her 400m heat. The national champion in the one-lapper started off well but faded to a 52.45 in the fourth of six heats. Jamaica’s Stephenie McPherson won in 50.34, the fastest of the 24 qualifiers into the semi-final.
Palframan’s time was 34th fastest of 41 finishers in the heats.
Afternoon action should bring be more productive for the SA team with Wayde van Niekerk lining up for the 400m semi-finals.
Also in action will be Carina Horn in the women’s 100m semi-finals and Rocco van Rooyen is in the javelin qualification round.
And he’ll have to be on his A game to go through to the final. His best of 85.39m came at Green Point a few months back but since then the Western Cape athlete has failed to find the same form.
Five of the athletes in his A Group have better season’s bests but first aim for him will be to nail the automatic 83.00m qualifying mark.
Then, Wenda Nel lines up in the 400m hurdles semi-finals. Her season’s best 54.37 is second fastest in her particular heat behind Cassandra Tate of the US who beat her into second spot in the heats.
First two in each heat and two next fastest times in the semi-finals progress to the final.
Meanwhile LJ van Zyl reflected on his failure to make it through to the final of the 400m hurdles on Sunday where he ended sixth in 48.89.
He said: ‘It was a hard series of semi-finals and champs, the guys all ran really well. As for me I had to adjust my pace a lot because of the extremely fast pace of the track.
‘I normally run a 14-stride pace but then down the back straight I had to run a 13-stride pace. So I came up short in the seventh hurdle in the semi-final.
‘Coach Irma (Reyneke) and I were forced to take a bit of a gamble because you can’t just run, stop, jump. I had to try and search for some better rhythm. So now I have the two Diamond League meetings left, one in Zurich on September 3 and then in Brussels on September 11. And Irvette and I are expecting the arrival of our first son on September 14 so it’s all happening now.’
Van Zyl, although his world champs is done, remains determined to help his team-mates through the rest of the championships. ‘I think my role here now must be to help all the remaining athletes do as best as they can. That’s my way of putting back into this sport.
‘I feel bad right now but there are worse things that have happened – this sport has served me so well down the years and I’m grateful for that.