SA’s Viljoen through to tonight’s javelin final event
With just one attempt, Sunette Viljoen qualified for the women’s javelin final at the Rio Olympics tonight.
Viljoen‚ competing at her fourth Games‚ launched her missile beyond the required 63m mark to automatically qualify as one of the dozen speared warriors who will battle it out for ultimate glory.
But South Africa’s other hopes on the night crashed out‚ failing to advance to their finals – it’s Games over for hurdlers LJ van Zyl‚Wenda Nel and Antonio Alkana‚ and long-jumper Lynique Prinsloo.
In the morning‚ world championship 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana and his two school-going companions‚ Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai‚ all crashed out in the heats. Out of eight SA athletics competitors on the day‚ only Viljoen made it through.
Her 63.54m in the evening qualifying round was third in her group‚ behind Sara Kolak, of Croatia (64.30), and Tatsiana Khaladovich, of Belarus (63.78m), and sixth overall.
Young Pole Maria Andrejczyk unleashed the biggest throw of the night‚ a massive 67.11m‚ ahead of defending champion and world record-holder Barbora Spotakova (64.65) and German Linda Stahl (63.95).
Viljoen was happy to fly under the radar. “I felt so relaxed . . . the javelin came out well and when I saw 63.54 I was very happy.
“It’s comforting to feel you’re not the big‚ big favourite‚ and to go into the final as a little bit of an underdog is nice‚” Viljoen‚ 32, said.
“The javelin this year is very open‚ so here ’s not one lady you can pinpoint and say this is a medal-winner. “I’d rather [be the underdog] than have the huge expectation on yourself and the country.”
In London four years ago‚ Vi l j o e n ‚ then the world No 1‚ had the third-longest throw in qualifying‚ but was unable to match that distance in the final‚ where she ended fourth.
The biggest casualty was Commonwealth Games champion Kim Mickle, of Australia.
Van Zyl‚ Nel and Alkana all got off to good starts but struggled over the final hurdles to be overhauled and pushed out of contention.
Van Zyl ended fifth in his 400m hurdles semifinal in 49.00 and Nel was sixth in her 400m hurdles in 55.83. “I didn’t have the legs to finish the race‚” Van Zyl‚ 31‚ who is eager to continue competing until the 2018 Commonwealth Games, said.
Nel‚ 28‚ lost her balance on hurdle nine and nearly stepped out of her lane. “I’ve always said that at this level it’s about making the fewest mistakes and tonight I made the most‚” she said‚ adding she might now decide to compete until Tokyo 2020.
Alkana‚ 26‚ was seventh in his 110m hurdles semifinal in 13.55. Prinsloo managed a best of 6.10m which ranked her 33rd overall. And‚ in the only medal event involving a South African on the day‚ open-water swimmer Chad Ho finished an impressive 10th‚ within three seconds of the podium.
“I wanted a top 10‚ even a medal‚ but it just wasn’t enough on the day and I can’t ask for anything more‚” Ho said. He was a matric pupil when he competed at his last Games at Beijing 2008‚ when he finished ninth.
“Conditions were ideal‚ not too flat not too rough and I felt good all the way. I sat with the pack‚ got my feed when I needed to and am happy to have another Olympics done and dusted.”