The South African team flaunted their depth on Sunday, securing another 11 medals on the fifth and final day of the CAA African Senior Athletics Championships in Mauritius.
While the national squad again finished second succession behind Kenya in the final standings, they secured a total of 36 podium places (9 golds, 13 silver, 14 bronze) which was the most medals bagged by the SA team at the CAA African Senior Athletics Championships since 1993.
On the final day of action, 400m hurdler Zeney van der Walt earned gold in the women's final, clocking 56.00. Her compatriot, Taylon Bieldt, secured the silver medal in 56.67.
Van der Walt and Bieldt went on to join flat 400m champion Miranda Coetzee and 200m sprinter Banele Shabangu, to secure gold in the women's 4x400m relay final in 3:29.34.
“It's my first senior African Championships and I'm very happy to take home two gold medals,” said Van der Walt, a former World Youth champion.
“This gives me a lot of confidence because it's a stepping stone going forward and I'm really excited.”
Former world junior champion Sokwakhana “Soks” Zazini also displayed fine form in the men's 400m hurdles final, flying to a convincing victory in 49.42. Algerian athlete Abdelmalik Lahoulou took second place in 50.10.
“Coming here, the main goal was to win, so I'm happy to take the title home for my country,” Zazini said.
Another former world junior champion, Kyle Blignaut, took the runner-up spot in the men's shot put with a season's best of 20.60m. Chukwuebeka Enekweshi of Nigeria launched a massive 21.20m throw to win gold.
“I'm satisfied with my medal, but the conditions were tough with the wind and rain,” Blignaut said. “I can't complain or make excuses because everyone was competing in the same conditions.”
Middle-distance runner Ryan Mphahlele was involved in a close contest in the men's 1 500m final, finishing second in 3:36.74, with Kenyan athlete Abel Kipsang holding off a brave challenge from the rising South African star to win the race in 3:36.57.
“I have mixed emotions and I wish some things could have gone differently, but it's my first major championship as a senior athlete, so I'll take a silver medal any day of the week,” Mphahlele said.
Earlier in the day, Wayne Snyman narrowly missed out on the African title in the men's 20km walk.
In a tight finish, Snyman crossed the line in 1:22:05, grabbing the silver medal just one second behind Kenyan athlete Samuel Gathimba (1:22:04).
Other medallists on the final day of competition included 200m sprinter Clarence Munyai (20.69), 800m runner Prudence Sekgodiso (2:03.46), high jumper Mpho Links (2.15m) and javelin thrower Phil-Mar Janse van Rensburg (74.10m) who all earned bronze medals.
Though the Kenyan team finished top of the final medals table with 10 golds, they secured only 23 medals in total, far fewer than the 36 earned by the SA team.
“We had some very close results and though we didn't finish top of the medals table, we are proud of our team for bringing home so many medals,” said Athletics South Africa president James Moloi. “We also had a lot of junior athletes in the squad and it bodes well for the future.”
The South African team will take a well-deserved break on Monday and will return home on Tuesday evening.