in the running

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - Ruben Ramolefi is not overawed by his qualification for today's final of the 3000m steeplechase in the Olympics.

An Olympic debutant, Ramolefi surprised many people when he won his heat with a personal best time of 8min:19,86sec at the National Stadium on Saturday to qualify for the final.

But today he will need to triple his efforts because competition will be very stiff.

The likes of Kenyan Kipkemboi Mateelong, France's Vincent Dandrieux-Zouaqui and Ugandan Benjamin Kiplagat will give the South African a run for his money.

Their event takes place at the same venue at 9.10pm (3.10pm South African time).

"I'm closer to winning a medal and the thought of that has really encouraged me," Ramolefi said.

"I have been training hard for the Olympics and I hope my hard work will pay dividends at the end of the day."

Other South Africans who qualified for today's finals are Louis "LJ" van Zyl in the 400m hurdles and Khotso Mokoena in the long jump. Mokoena jumps at 8.10pm (2.10pm SA time) and Van Zyl competes two hours later.

Van Zyl secured third place in the semifinals on Saturday with a time of 48,57, behind Americans Angelo Taylor (47,94) and Bershawn Jackson (48,02).

The Pretoria hurdler said he will try to increase his pace in the final.

"It was difficult today [Saturday] and I just paced myself to get through to the final, but I need to pace myself in the final," said Van Zyl.

Mokoena jumped 8,14m in his qualifying round.

"I have always told you that I'm ready for everyone in this event and I will apply the same attitude in the final," he said.

Pieter de Villiers and Alwyn Myburg fell by the wayside in the hurdles semifinals.

Elizna Naude and Tsholofelo Thipe also failed in their heats in the discus and 400m hurdles events at the weekend.

Thuso Mpuang, who turned 23 on Friday, will want to cele- brate his birthday early with a fine performance when he opens his campaign in the 200m heats this morning.

"I'm motivated by the fact that I will compete against the best in the world. That I have also qualified for the Olympics means that I'm the best, and I'm ready for them."