Lack of key athletes, SA team may struggle on track

At the most recent Commonwealth Games, held on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018, the athletics team led South Africa with 14 medals.

AT Birmingham however, it will be difficult for them to make such a significant contribution this week.

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Since 2018, South Africa has lost long jumper Luvo Manyonga to drugs and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen has retired, while Caster Semenya is restricted to competitions that are so out of her range that she cannot be competitive, and returning sprinter Wade van Niekerk made his return to the track too late to qualify as a multisport showpiece.

In the absence of these stars, along with the likes of Ruswal Samai (who failed to reach his goals this year and was dropped from the team) and sprinter Luxolo Adams, who left the team citing fatigue, the track and field contingent stands against the wall.

And exit on tuesday or sprinters Clarence Munyai and Emil Erasmus almost killed the team’s chances in the men’s 4x100m relay, if they entered at all.

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However, this does not mean that they will be useless, and some world-class athletes will do everything possible to lift the national team in the medal table.

Experienced sprinter Akani Simbine will once again lead the charge in defending his title in the 100m.

Simbine narrowly missed a medal at a third consecutive World Championship in Eugene last month and he will be looking to retain his Commonwealth crown.

Other contenders

Other athletes to watch in athletics include shot put ace Kyle Blino, 400m hurdles star Zeni van der Walt, middle-distance prospect Ryan Mfahlele and Paralympic athletes Jonathan Ntutu and Charles du Toit, but all of them will have to be in their power to put up a fight.

So another bag of 14 medals is unlikely and a lack of quality and depth can be revealed at this level, especially with some key athletes missing from the national team.

But the track and field team can be expected to contribute, as always, and the younger members of the South African team are hoping to contribute with a few surprises.