Sokwakhana Zazini gets Team SA off to strong start on Olympic athletics track
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CAPE TOWN - FORMER world junior champion Sokwakhana Zazini got Team South Africa off to the best possible start on the athletics track by qualifying for the 400m hurdles semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
The 21-year-old Zazini, who won the world junior (under-20) title in 2018 after clinching the world youth (under-18) title in 2017, began his senior career on the biggest stage in fine style at the Olympic Stadium.
The first South African in action in track and field in Tokyo, Zazini raced in heat 5, where he was up against American star Rai Benjamin and Estonia’s Rasmus Magi, and needed to finish in the top four to be assured of a place in the semi-finals.
The sports science student at the University of Pretoria made solid progress over the first 200 metres, but really kicked on the final bend to emerge in third place behind Benjamin and Magi.
Despite a late charge from Dutch athlete Nick Smidt, Zazini managed to hold on for third place and crossed the line in a time of 49.51 seconds, which was a season’s best for him.
Zazini can certainly go quicker, as his personal best time of 48.73 – which he set in 2019 in Napoli – proves.
And he will probably need to post a new PB in the semi-finals if he is to have a chance of reaching the final, as he qualified in 21st position out of 36 athletes still in the mix. The top eight will go into the medal decider, and the current athletes in those positions have all run times of 48.79 and faster.
The gold-medal contenders are world record-holder Karston Warholm of Norway, and Benjamin of the USA.
The next South African on the track on Friday will be Dominique Scott-Efurd in the women’s 5 000m at 12.26pm SA time.
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