THE PRESSURE IS ON, BUT SA JUNIORS CAN DELIVER IN NAIROBI

It will, of course, be as much of a challenge as it always is, but South Africa’s junior track and field prospects will be confident of chasing the podium as they showcase their potential at the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi this week.

A large team of 54 athletes will compete in the five-day event which starts on Wednesday, and they will be spearheaded by some of the country’s most exciting young stars.

AUTHOR:

Mine de Klerk is a stick of dynamite stacked with talent just waiting to explode.

Ranked second in the world this year in the junior women’s shot put (17.55m) and 13th in the discus throw (52.32m) she could be a dominant force in Nairobi.

De Klerk will also be backed by Dane Roets, a former Youth Olympics finalist, as they aim to pack a double punch in the shot put.

Meanwhile, Lythe Pillay leads a powerful sprint contingent.

Pillay is ranked fifth in the world this year in the U-20 men’s 400m with his 45.53 personal best, but all four athletes ahead of him are from the United States and only two of them will be allowed to compete in Nairobi.

Having gained significant experience at top-flight senior championships this year, including the World Relays and the Tokyo Olympics, Pillay is expected to shine for the national team as he returns to junior level.

Other sprinters in the squad who look dangerous, at least on paper, are Benjamin Richardson, who has clocked 10.17 over 100m, and Sinesipho Dambile, who holds a nifty 200m season’s best of 20.56.

In other events, Renier de Villiers (1:45.95) and Prudence Sekgodiso (2:01.40) have both displayed their potential over 800m, and while rules will force her to choose between the 1 500m and the 3 000m, Carmie Prinsloo could also be competitive in the middle-distances.

In addition, high jumper Brian Raats, (2.20m), 400m hurdler Anje Nel (57.63) and pole vaulters Kyle Rademeyer and Nikolai van Huyssteen (who have both cleared 5.40m) should be able to put up a fight in the battle for podium places, along with the SA relay teams.

After returning home from the 2014 World U-20 Championships in Eugene without any medals, the SA junior team made an impact at the 2016 showpiece in Bydgoszcz, where they earned three silver medals, and at the 2018 edition in Tampere, where they bagged three gold medals and one bronze.

Though it would be a lot to expect them to repeat the squad’s impressive performance in Tampere, where they finished sixth in the final standings, the team in Nairobi has the ability to make the nation’s presence felt once again.

And if all goes well, they should return home with a few more medals in the bag.