Mokoena 'working harder' for the Olympics

FOR an athlete who carried the entire South African team in Beijing four years ago, Khotso Mokoena has managed to keep a remarkably low profile in the build-up to the London Games.

Mokoena, one of the country's most decorated athletes over the last 10 years, has hovered under the radar for two seasons after returning from injury at the beginning of 2011.

His withdrawal from the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, after struggling to shake off a leg strain, caused tension with the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, which insisted he had been fit and able to compete.

In February 2011, when Sascoc released the 34-members of its Operation Excellence (Opex) squad, to receive funding in their preparation for the London Games, Mokoena's name was not on the list.

He closed out a sedate 2011 season with a poor performance at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where he failed to reach the long jump final.

His cautious approach continued in 2012, and after a couple of below-par performances in Europe, Mokoena again withdrew from a major event when he pulled out of South Africa's World Indoor Championships team in March, in order to focus on the London Games.

"We are taking it gradually and we only want to start doing our thing by July," Mokoena's coach, Hansie Coetzee, assured at the time.

Since making his outdoor season debut in April, Mokoena has been on a steady incline, aiming to reach his peak in London.

He looked flat, though, in his latest performance, producing a relatively poor leap of 7.99m to finish sixth at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Spain, on Saturday.

Mokoena might not have hit his straps ahead of the Games just yet, but he has been consistent.

Competing in his third Olympic Games, he feels the weight of expectation on him to repeat his performance from Beijing. "I can feel the pressure, especially after I won a medal in 2008," he said in April, before setting the first of two required qualifying marks.

"It is not a negative pressure. That pressure just tells me, 'hey boet, you have to work harder every day'." - Sapa

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