Young stars give SA hope

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

They might not have won medals at the World Athletics Championships in Japan, but Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene reckons their future in the sport is bright.

Chuene's optimism was prompted by impressive performances from South Africa's young athletes at the 11th IAAF event that ended in Osaka on Sunday.

The ASA boss was impressed with the courageous display of Nombulelo Mkenku and Robert Oosthuizen, who were making their debuts in the championships.

Twenty-year-old Oosthuizen managed to reach the javelin final where he finished sixth. Mkenku, the 18-year-old Free Stater, qualified for the 100m but did not take part in the semifinals after she picked up a shoulder injury in the first heat.

"I'm pleased with the performances of these youngsters and this has forced us to work even harder to unearth more untapped talent across the country," said Chuene.

"I made it clear after the championships in Helsinki in 2005 that we will throw in youngsters in future events of this magnitude for them to learn. I'm happy we did that this year and we will continue to do so in future.

"These athletes really made their presence felt in spite of not winning medals in Osaka. It was not all about winning medals, but to gain international experience and build confidence. I am convinced there is a bright future for these youngsters."

The equally young Khotso Mokoena also impressed at the championships when he reached the final of the long jump.

Chuene said they still had confidence in their seasoned campaigners who did not win medals in Osaka. Hendrick Ramaala, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Louis "LJ" van Zyl, Chris Harmse, Geraldine Pillay and Alwyn Myburg were among the country's medal hopefuls.

The athletes are expected in the country this morning.