Sth Africans to Europe

Rewarded SA athletes head off to Europe

May 11 2010 at 04:06PM  Get IOL on your

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After pocketing a sizeable check on Tuesday for his performances in South Africa’s domestic athletics season, national 3 000m steeplechase record holder Ruben Ramolefi said he was hoping to get his European campaign off to a cracking start this weekend.

Ramolefi left for Doha on Tuesday night with world 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Commonwealth 400m hurdles gold medallist LJ van Zyl and national triple jump champion Tumelo Thagane, as they prepare to compete at the Qatar Athletics Super Grand Prix, the first IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season, on Friday.

“I’m a bit nervous, but hopefully I’ll come back with a good result,” Ramolefi said after he was named the men’s Yellow Pages Athlete of the Season on Tuesday.
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The 32-year-old picked up R145 000 for his performances throughout the season, while middle distance runner Lebogang Phalula, named women’s Athlete of the Season, earned a total of R130 000.

Ten athletes were rewarded by the incentives offered from the sponsors for the best men’s and women’s performances at each of the seven domestic senior meetings this season, including the national championships in Durban in March.

Van Zyl, who earned R30 000 as Athlete of the Meeting in Durban and Potchefstroom, said he had learned a valuable lesson after he was disqualified for false starting in the men’s one-lap hurdles final at the national championships, which likely cost him the Athlete of the Season award and the R100 000 cheque that went with it.

“This was one of the best local seasons I’ve ever had, but I made the biggest mistake at the SA Championships,” Van Zyl said. “But sometimes that’s not a bad thing because it brings you down to earth and keeps you focused.”

While she won’t be competing in Doha, middle distance runner Rene Kalmer, who picked up R30 000 as the women’s Athlete of the Meeting with her 1 500m victory at the national championships, said she would start her European campaign at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo on May 30.

“Unfortunately, I just missed qualifying for the Commonwealth Games by 0.2 seconds at the national championships, but I’m confident that I’ll do it in Europe,” Kalmer said.

“I’m running the 5 000m race in Hengelo and then I’m running a 1 500m race in Rabat a week later.”

Two of South Africa’s best throwers, Commonwealth Games discus throw champion Elizna Naude and former African javelin throw gold medallist Justine Robbeson, who both picked up prize money on Tuesday, said they were glad to be back to their best form.

“I’ve been struggling to get over 60m for two years because of a back injury,” Naude said, “but I threw 64.49m in Durban in February (her furthest distance in three seasons) and that was my best moment of the year so far.”

Robbeson has recovered from elbow surgery and said she was delighted to return from a long-term injury to produce a 61.23m effort - her best in more than two years - and beat Commonwealth champion Sunette Viljoen in Potchefstroom in March.

“I have really been battling with this injury, and I’ve been struggling around the 55m mark,” Robbeson said.

“I had to take a year off because of my elbow, so the first thing I though after I went over 60m was that I was back from injury. I’m finally back.” - Sapa