OSAKA - Athletics South Africa (ASA's) contingent in Osaka have reason to be positive that long jumper Khotso Mokoena could win them their first medal at the 11th World Athletics Championships today.
Mokoena pulled off a five-star performance when he qualified for the final of the long jump event after a third leap of 8,28m in the qualifier yesterday.
The Commonwealth Games silver medallist finished ahead of defending champion Dwight Phillips of the United States and veteran Jamaican James Beckford who both jumped 8,22m.
"Khotso was magnificent today and we have reason to be positive that he will win a medal tomorrow [today]," Attlee Maponyane, ASA's official, said yesterday.
"What I like about Khotso is his composure and zeal to strive for perfection. He does not want to put himself under pressure and always takes each event as it comes. He always refuses to be intimidated by the status of his competitors," he said.
Mokoena lived up to that description yesterday and refused to gloat about his success in the qualifier.
But he stressed that he was not going into the final to add to the numbers.
"As I told you in our earlier interview, I'm not under pressure to win a medal here. But I'm prepared to compete in the final," he said calmly.
When asked whom he thought would give him a problem in the final, Mokoena said: "I can't single out an individual because they are all capable and hence they reached the final. I'm also in the final and this proves that I'm capable."
Today's final is bound to be stiff and attention-grabbing as European champion Andrew Howe of Italy, Panamanian Irving Saladino and American Walter Davis have also progressed to the decider.