PORT ELIZABETH – Distance ace Stephen Mokoka set his first Olympic qualifying time in the men’s 10 000 metres race on the opening day of the SA Senior Athletics Championships in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
Mokoka crossed the finish line in a time of 27:40.73, dipping below the Olympic qualifying standard of 27:45.00.
Gladwin Mzazi was second in 28:20.18 and Xolisa Tyali secured the bronze medal in 28:29.20.
The pint-sized Mokoka had already qualified for the marathon event at the London Olympic Games – one of five South Africans who have met the standard over the classic distance. While Mokoka is equally adept in the marathon and the 10 000m, he said he was leaning towards the longer distance.
“For now I am doing my speed work,” he said.
“My coach (Michael Seme) and I haven’t decided yet, but initially we decided that I was going to do the marathon in London.
“We still have time because if I prepare for the marathon I will take about three months, so I will go sit down with my coach.
“I think the marathon would be better but Seme will decide.”
Mokoka ran himself into the record books, recording the third fastest time by a South African over 10 000m on the track, with only Hendrick Ramaala (27:29.94) and Xolile Yawa (27:39.69) ahead of him.
Meanwhile, SA long jump champion Khotso Mokoena was dethroned by young pretender Zarck Visser, who leaped to a personal best of 8.21 metres to take the spoils.
Visser was, however, assisted by a tailwind of 2.2 metres per second which made the jump null and void in terms of Olympic qualifying.
His second best jump of 8.07m was registered as legal and proved to be a new personal best.
“I guess it is just one of those things, and it was just a good day,” Visser said. “We all knew that the wind would play a big factor.”
Visser’s coach, Ammerie Fouche, said the wind assisted jump of 8.21m was significant as it was the same distance her husband, former SA long jump record holder Francois Fouche, set in 1990.
“I think even last night I knew I was going to jump big, it was just a matter of time,” said Visser.
While Visser was walking on air, Mokoena struggled to find the right rhythm, recording only two jumps over the eight-metre mark, with a best of 8.13m with a tailwind of 4.5 metres per second.
Earlier, Rene Kalmer won her 32nd national title when she crossed the line first in the women’s 5 000m in a time of 15:55.05.
She was followed by Irvette van Blerk in 16:25.89 in second place, with Mpho Mabuza clocking 16:45.40 for third.
South African hammer thrower Chris Harmse continued his reign in his specialist event, winning the title for the 17th consecutive time.
Double amputee Oscar Pistorius, a former silver medallist at the able-bodied nationals, reached the final of the men’s 400m event, finishing fourth in his semifinal in 47.91.