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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Gift Leotlela and Wayde van Niekerk © Gallo Images

Leotlela stuns Olympic champ in Bloem



Long jump star Luvo Manyonga, teenage sprinter Gift Leotlela and hurdler Ruan de Vries stole the show on Wednesday night, delivering spectacular performances at the second leg of the ASA Speed Series Meeting in Bloemfontein.

Competing in his first event of the season, Manyonga produced a stellar leap of 8.46m, the furthest jump in the world this year, to miss Khotso Mokoena's South African record by two centimetres.

In the Men's 100m race, Leotlela racked up one of the biggest wins of his career to beat Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk.

Due to a technical glitch with the electronic timing system, hand times were recorded and Leotlela was credited with 10.0, and Van Niekerk clocked 10.10.

Leotlela praised Van Niekerk, who set a 400m world record of 43.03 last year, for playing a key role in the rapid rise of SA sprinting.

"When Wayde broke the world record last year, it just motivated all of us to do better, and we are getting better as a result," Leotlela said.

Van Niekerk, who clocked 9.98 on the same track in March last year, admitted he had some work to do ahead of the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

"I really don't want to make any excuses, but technically I'm very rusty and I need to work on that," Van Niekerk said. "But we've got some time, and we need to win at the major competitions. That's what counts."

In the Men's 110m hurdles race, De Vries charged to victory, setting a national record of 13.23 seconds to better the previous mark of 13.24 which was held by Lehann Fourie, thus improving his own Personal Best by 0.36.

"I just wanted to finish the race and go through the motions to get ready for SA champs," said a stunned De Vries, whose performance is still to be ratified. "This is a qualifying time for world champs (in London in August), so I have to go there and give my best and see what happens."

ASA President Aleck Skhosana explained issues around Men's 100m event: "The transponder in the starting device did not react at the start. It's a new system and we will have to find out from the (private) company what caused it.”

According to Skhosana, there is no reason at this stage to question the rest of the results. "In the other races, we can't discredit the athletes until we know whether there was an issue with the times."

In one of the greatest moments for an athlete, at the start of the Meeting, Van Niekerk received a golden plaque from the International Association of Athletics Federations, in recognition of his world record performance at last year's Rio Olympics.

The plaque was handed to him by Skhosana in a significant ceremony on the track for which the athlete received an ovation from the crowds.

"We are tremendously proud of Wayde for all he has achieved, and it is great to have him here receiving the award and also competing in front of his home crowd," Skhosana said.

The third of four legs in the ASA Speed Series will be held in Potchefstroom next Wednesday.



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