Prudence Sekgodiso opens season in swift style with Olympic qualifier

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Prudence Sekgodiso opens season in swift style with Olympic qualifier
Prudence Sekgodiso opens season in swift style with Olympic qualifier

Africa-Press – South-Africa. Prudence Sekgodiso became the fifth South African woman to achieve an automatic Olympic qualifying time as she finished first in the 800m at a league meet in Pretoria on Saturday.

Sekgodiso, the second-fastest local woman of all time behind Caster Semenya in the two-lap race, clocked an impressive 1 min 58.05 sec personal best.It was the eighth occasion she had dipped under two minutes since 2022 and augurs well for the year ahead, with the focus being the Paris Games from July 27 to August 11.

She was way ahead of second-placed finisher Oratile Nowe of Botswana, who finished more than two seconds slower in 2:00.22.

To go so fast running out in front right at the start of the season suggests Sekgodiso has even more speed in the tank; all her previous sub-two-minute runs came in May, June and August.

The 22-year-old will probably need to improve her time by one-and-a-half seconds to have any medal aspirations in France; the third-placed women’s 800m finishers at the past three major championships — the Tokyo Games and the 2022 and 2023 world championships — have crossed the line progressively faster, from 1:56.81 to 1:56.61.

Sekgodiso is only the second local female track athlete to have achieved an automatic qualifier after 100m hurdler Marioné Fourie. The other three women were all in the marathon — Gerda Steyn, Cian Oldknow and Irvette van Zyl.

To date seven men have run automatic qualifying times — Akani Simbine (100m), Luxolo Adams (200m), Wayde van Niekerk and Zakithi Nene (both 400m), Tshepo Tshite (1,500m), Adriaan Wildschutt (5,000m) and Stephen Mokoka (marathon).

Athletes can qualify for the Games by achieving stipulated standards or by placing high enough on the world rankings at the end of the qualifying window.

Each nation can enter a maximum of three athletes per event.

Every athletics event in Paris has a maximum quota of competitors, ranging from 24 in decathlon and heptathlon to 80 in the marathons.

Should automatic qualifiers fill an event entirely — as has already happened in the women’s marathon — there will be no room for qualifiers by world rankings.

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