BEIJING - South Africa's track star Mbulaeni Mulaudzi battled valiantly for a medal in last night's 800m final at the Olympic Games, but a bout flu had clearly taken its toll.
It was a wonder that th e 2004 Athens Olympics silver medallist had made it to the final, but it proved one hurdle too far. He finished a gutsy fifth.
"I came to this race today [yesterday] in a positive frame of mind because I felt much better. My body was not in pain but my energy was down in the first lap and I could not run as much as I would have loved to," Mulaudzi said.
"It became very tough for me and I thought of giving up in the last 30m when I saw the other guys passing me."
His disappointment was shared by Team South Africa and the nation as a whole because many people were convinced the seasoned sprinter would add another medal to Khotso Mokoena's silver in the long jump on Monday. (See Mokoena interview on page 12)
Mulaudzi will now take a break from the track. He said he will try to go for the Grand Prix and the World Championships next year.
The men's 4x100m relay team also failed to advance following a botched baton exchange in a drama-filled event. The United States, Nigeria and Poland also did not finish the race for similar reasons.
Now South Africa's hopes in athletics lie on the shoulders of Hendrick Ramaala and Norman Dlomo who compete in the marathon on Sunday.
The 4x400m relay team, which has the likes of Louis "LJ" van Zyl and Alwyn Myburg, runs in a heat today.
Sifiso Nhlapo also shoulders the responsibility of winning a medal for his country today in the BMX cycling final.
This event was postponed until today because of rain yesterday.
Jen Hodson has also qualified for the canoeing final to be held tomorrow after securing third spot in the women's kayak single 500m semifinals yesterday. Michele Eray, Nicola Mocke and Carol Joyce are also through to the final.