19 South African Athletes Secure Spots for Paris Olympics as Qualifying Race Heats Up

(Photo by Peter Heeger/Gallo Images)

Less than three months to the Paris Olympic Games, a total of 19 South African athletes have already secured their places at the multi-sport showpiece, while others still have nearly two months to add their names to the list of automatic qualifiers.

With the qualifying window having closed for the marathon, four individuals have cemented their spots, including a full line-up of three women. Gerda Steyn (2:24:03), Cian Oldknow (2:25:08) and Irvette van Zyl (2:26:11) all dipped under the automatic qualifying standard (2:26:50) in the women’s 42.4km event.

In the men’s marathon, only Stephen Mokoka has qualified automatically so far, having clocked 2:06:42 in Osaka, Japan last year, going under the required time of 2:08:10.

From the track, nine men have automatically qualified for the Games by running fast times. Sprinter Akani Simbine, who clocked 9.97 in Poland last season, has guaranteed his place in the 100m after running under the standard of 10.00. In the 200m event Shaun Maswanganyi (20.10), Luxolo Adams (20.15) and national champion Benjamin Richardson (20.16) have all achieved the required time (20.16).

And there will be a full SA line-up in the 400m event, with world record holder Wayde van Niekerk (44.08), SA champion Lythe Pillay (44.31) and Zakithi Nene (44.74) all going under the standard of 45.00.

Middle-distance runner Tshepo Tshite (3:32.98) has booked his spot in the men’s 1 500m event, after dipping under 3:33.50, while long-distance specialist Adrian Wildschutt has qualified in both the 5 000m (12:56.76) and 10 000m (26:55.54) events, running under the respective marks of 13:05.00 and 27:00.00.

The SA men’s 4x100m and 4x00m relay teams have also secured qualification for the Games.

In men’s field events, Jovan van Vuuren leaped 8.30m in Tshwane in March, sailing three centimetres beyond the qualifying standard of 8.27m in the long jump. Francois Prinsloo, based in the United States, also cemented his place in the French capital by launching a 67.26m heave in the men’s discus throw in Mississippi last month, adding six centimetres to the required mark of 67.20m.

Aside from the three marathon runners – Steyn, Oldknow and Van Zyl – four other women have qualified on the track. Zeney Geldenhuys (54.72) and Rogail Joseph (54.84) both ran under the standard of 54.85 in the 400m hurdles final at the ASA Senior Championships in Pietermaritzburg last month. Hurdler Marione Fourie (12.55) has gone well under the required time of 12.77 in the 100m hurdles, and middle-distance runner Prudence Sekgodiso (1:58.05) has achieved the mark of 1:59.30 in the 800m event.

Male athletes who are currently in qualifying positions on the rankings (which is expected to change for better or worse) include Shaun Maswanganyi (100m), Sinesipho Dambile (200m), Kabelo Mohlosi (800m), Edmund du Plessis (800m), Ryan Mphahlele (1 500m), Brian Raats (high jump), Kyle Blignaut (shot put) and Victor Hogan (discus throw).

Women who are currently high enough up the ranking lists to qualify for the Games are Geldenhuys (400m), Miranda Coetzee (400m), Charne Swart (800m), Mine de Klerk (shot put) and Jo-Ane van Dyk (javelin throw).

“The window has not yet closed,” said James Moloi, the President of Athletics South Africa. “The road to the Olympics is still wide open for any athlete still seeking a seat on the flight. We wish every athlete well and trust that in the next few weeks athletes will do everything to substantially improve their rankings as they measure against other athletes around the world. But they must also go for the qualifying times.”

Except in the marathon, athletes who don’t meet the automatic qualifying standards by the time the window closes at the end of June will need to finish high enough up the rankings to qualify on quota in all events.

The athletics competition at the Paris Olympics will be held at the Stade de France between 1-11 August 2024.