salute our heroes

BERLIN - Like soldiers returning triumphant from battle in foreign lands, our athletes arrive home today to a hero's welcome from hordes of fellow South Africans brimming with pride and patriotism.

BERLIN - Like soldiers returning triumphant from battle in foreign lands, our athletes arrive home today to a hero's welcome from hordes of fellow South Africans brimming with pride and patriotism.

For this team of athletes, which represented our country so bravely and selflessly at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Germany, comes from a national treasure trove of sporting heroes and heroines who occupy a special place in our hearts. We're especially proud of national treasures Caster Semenya and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi for those priceless moments when their gallant forays culminated in gold medals.

Their tally will always enrich our trove of sporting feats, as will long jump champion Khotso Mokoena's silver medal.

At face value winning three medals in a championship looks like a trivial achievement.

But these medals were won at the international level, in competition with the world's top athletes. South Africa was among more than 200 IAAF member countries to compete in the eight-day championships.

SA finished ninth on the medal table, ahead of the likes of Australia, Bahrain, Cuba, China and Norway. The US finished at the top with 22 medals, followed by Jamaica with 13 and Kenya third with 11. Britain is just above SA at eighth with six medals.

The three gold medals won have prompted Athletics South Africa into believing that they are on the right track for the 2012 London Olympics.

One of the gold medals was won by Semenya, 18, in the women's 800m while the other gold was claimed by Mulaudzi. The 28-year-old triumphed in the men's 800m a day after Khotso Mokoena had won silver medal in the long jump.

Marathoners Norman Dlomo came 12th (2:14:39), Johannes Kekana 17th (2:15:28) and Coolboy Ngamole 22nd (2:16:20).

The athletes will continue to compete in various IAAF meetings in Europe this year, preparing them for the Commonwealth Games next year.

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