IAAF World Youth 400m Hurdles champion Sokwakhana Zazini wrapped up an impressive all-round performance by the South African team on Friday, with the host nation winning 38 of 39 finals on the opening day of the CAA Southern Region U18 Youth & U20 Junior Championships at Boksburg Athletics Stadium, Johannesburg.
Zazini completed the first half of his attempted double, snatching gold in the U20 Junior 400m Men in 46.07 seconds after winning a battle against countryman Gabriel Louw (46.42) down the home straight.
“I’m feeling awesome because I can see I’m being consistent. I’m happy with a low-46,” said Zazini, who is set to compete in the one-lap race over the barriers on Saturday’s second and final day of competition. “I just need to go rest now, get some sleep and make sure I prepare well for tomorrow.”
Earlier, in other 400m finals, Jayson Weber clocked 46.78 and Amy Naude crossed the line in 53.83, with both athletes setting impressive times in the U18 Youth Boys and Girls’ divisions.
In one of the most anticipated match-ups of the regional age group championships, IAAF World Youth 200m champion Retshidisitswe Mlenga secured the Junior Men 100m title in 10.26 ahead of SA U20 record holder Thando Dlodlo (10.42) after both athletes turned out in the same race in a timed finals format.
In the Junior Women’s 100m final, Rorisang Padi crossed the line in 12.23, edging out Zambia‘s Suwilanji Mpondela by 0.02 in a tight contest.
Mikaal-Il Mohamed took the Youth Boys’ short sprint title in a nifty time of 10.40, and in-form athlete Rose Xeyi clocked 11.69 to secure the Youth Girls’ crown.
In other events, Silisapho Dingiswayo stopped the clock at 13.56 in the Junior Men’s 110m Hurdles battle, and Michael Schoeman also produced a quick time to take the Youth Boys’ gold medal in 13.67.
While there were only two athletes in the Youth Girls’ 2000m Steeplechase, they were locked in a thrilling battle throughout, with Cara du Preez clocking 6:54.95 at altitude, and compatriot Isabel Stickells grabbing the silver medal less than a second off the pace in 6:55.90.
Delivering some dominant performances in other middle-distance races, Dais Malebana was more than five seconds clear of the rest of the field, taking the Junior Men 1500m title in 3:49.75, while Nicole Louw won the Youth Girls 1500m final by more than 14 seconds, charging home in 4:33.89.
Tyler Beling was more than eight seconds ahead of her nearest opponent, winning the Junior Women race in 4:37.10.
Brian Ndhlovu of Zimbabwe was the only athlete from beyond South African borders to earn gold, taking a convincing victory in the Youth Boys’ High Jump final by clearing 2.10m.
Gayisa Maswanganyi of South Africa grabbed silver with a 2.05m effort.
Day 2 starts at 8.30am with the Final Men U20 Junior 10000m.