Medal hopes rest with track and field athletes

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - South Africa's medal drought in the early events means that the nation's hopes now rest with the not-so-promising track and field athletes.

The keenly anticipated athletics events get under way today, and some of the top South African athletes are determined to restore some pride for the country.

SA will have five representatives in the opening day of the athletics today. They are Louis "LJ" van Zyl, Alwyn Myburg, Pieter de Villiers, Juan van Deventer and Elizna Naude.

Van Zyl, Myburg and De Villiers will compete in the 400m hurdles, Van Deventer in the 1 500m and Naude in discus heat events.

Van Deventer will face stiff opposition from world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco who set the record of 3min:26sec in Italy in 1998.

Kenyan star Noah Ngeny, the Olympic record holder, will also be in action. This should make the event much stiffer. Ngeny's record of 3:32,07 was set at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Feared American hurdler Kevin Young, the world and Olympic record holder (46,78), will be a handful to his rivals in the 400m hurdles.

South Africans will pin their hopes on exciting long jumper Khotso Mokoena tomorrow.

Mokoena, who is 1,88m tall and weighs 73kg, said he was ready to face all his competitors.

"Everyone that I will compete against will be tough, but I have done my homework and am ready to face the challenges," he said.

Tsholofelo Thipe will also be in action tomorrow in the women's 400m hurdles, while Thuso Mpuang starts his 200m campaign on Monday with two heats. Medal hopeful Mbulaeni Mulaudzi starts his 800m event on Wednesday.

Justice Robbeson and Sunette Viljoen will be in action in javelin on Tuesday, while the 4x100 relay team's programme starts on Thursday. The 4x400 starts the following day.