SA's 4x100m World Relay champions crash out of Tokyo Games
SA’s highly fancied 4x100m relay team crashed out of the heats at the Tokyo Games on Thursday morning, failing at the first handover.
Clarence Munyai and Shaun Maswanganyi looked more like the comic relief of an event where SA were expected to compete for a medal after going into the showpiece as the World Relay champions.
In a bizarre mix-up Munyai, starting the relay, failed to find Maswanganyi and nearly ran into him, looking at one point as if he was trying to hitch a piggy back ride.
All their rival runners shifted to the inside of their lanes, to facilitate the hand-over from right hand to left hand, except for Munyai who kept to the outside of the lane.
Munyai was part of the team that won gold at World Relays in Poland in early May, though he ran the third leg then.
Poor anchor Akani Simbine, fourth in the individual 100m on Sunday, could do nothing but watch the horror show unfold. It was the same for Chederick van Wyk, selected as a reserve but cementing his spot after Gift Leotlela was injured at the weekend.
SA weren’t the only high-profile casualties, with the US failing to qualify for Friday’s final.
The relay team was the last of SA’s 13 medal hopes to compete at the Games.
From here on out, SA’s last chances of adding to its haul of three medals are all outsiders, like the men's 4x400m relay team, which competes in the heats on Friday, the women’s marathon on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.
Kyle Blignaut fought hard before finishing sixth in the men’s shot put final, one spot behind SA-born Italian Zane Weir.
The 21-year-old Blignaut, the world under-20 champion in 2018, threw a best of 21m, 41cm behind Weir’s personal best.
And earlier, two-time Midmar Mile champion Michael McGlynn scored SA’s best placing in a marathon swim since it became an Olympic sport in 2008, ending the 10km race in eighth position.
The 21-year-old from Durban found himself lying 25th early on, but he powered his way through the field until he got into the top eight with about 1km to go.
He clocked 1 hr 51 min 32.7 sec, 2:59 behind German Florian Wellbrock, who won by the biggest margin seen so far, with a 25.3 sec gap over runner-up Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary.
The three previous men’s races were far narrower.
Before Thursday SA’s best result in this event at a Games had been ninth, by Chad Ho at Beijing 2008, though he had been only 21.5 seconds off the pace then. Five years ago Ho was 10th and five seconds behind.