WEAKENED FIELDS DID NOTHING TO STOP JUNIOR STARS FROM SHINING

Photo Credit: World Athletics/Rodger Sederes

The first eight medals they earned were secured while trying to dodge a massive elephant in the room, but the SA men’s 4x100m relay team put any uncertainty to bed with an explosive result at the weekend, closing out the national squad’s campaign in style at the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Nairobi.

With some countries missing from the showpiece, most notably the United States, there were questions raised after every medal the national squad secured.

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In their defence, the athletes could only compete against opponents who actually lined up.

Nonetheless, there were constant whispers about what would have happened if everyone was there.

The entire week-long argument, however, was put to bed in just 38.51 seconds.

By breaking the world junior record, held by the US, the 4x100m relay team –¬†Mihlali Xhotyeni, Sinesipho Dambile, Letlhogonolo Moleyane and Benjamin Richardson – proved they deserved the title, and if anyone else was in the race, they would probably have been left snapping at the ankles of South Africa’s runaway sprinters.

Not that we wouldn’t have had anything to celebrate if they hadn’t produced a record.

Earlier in the week, the SA team’s other eight medals had provided enough reason for the nation to celebrate.

The pole vault has been perhaps the weakest discipline in South African athletics in recent years.

As such, Mire Reinstorf’s gold medal, and her African record of 4.15m, was a tremendous relief.

Bagging bronze in the men’s pole vault final, Kyle Rademeyer further cemented the country’s prospects in one of track and field’s most technical events.

In addition, Mine de Klerk’s shot put gold and discus throw silver, and Dane Roets’ shot put bronze, showcased the nation’s potential in women’s throwing events.

Aside from the 4x100m relay title, Richardson (100m silver), Dambile (200m bronze) and Matthys Nortje (400m bronze) also shone in individual events, proving South African sprinting was still on the rise.

Yes, we must admit that the team’s nine-medal haul in Nairobi would probably have taken a knock against full-strength fields.

But the nation’s junior stars managed to set that issue aside to deliver at the highest level of international age group competition, and the sprint relay team proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that, for them, it wouldn’t have mattered.

They’re not just the best group of young sprinters in the world at the moment. They’re among the best there have ever been.