Olympic medallists Wayde van Niekerk and Luvo Manyonga will turn out as the headline acts on Wednesday night (tomorrow), along with sprinter Alyssa Conley, at the second of four legs in the ASA Speed Series in Bloemfontein.
With the country’s top sprinters laying early markers for the 2017 season, led by Akani Simbine’s superb 100m (9.93) and 200m (19.95) times at a league meeting in Pretoria last week, Van Niekerk will aim at giving his home crowd something to talk about from the track at the Free State Athletics Stadium.
After opening his 2016 season with a 9.98 performance over 100m, and with the 200m forming part of his long-term plans, the 400m world record holder will be eager to prove he has not lost any of his raw speed.
He will line up in the Men’s 100m race against in-form teenager Gift Leotlela, who clocked 20.50 over 200m at the Varsity Cup meeting in Potchefstroom last week, and Emile Erasmus, who finished second behind Anaso Jobodwana in the short dash at the ASA Speed Series opener in Durban last week.
Manyonga will get his campaign under way in the Men’s Long Jump contest.
The Olympic silver medallist, whose Personal Best of 8.48m and is just two centimetres off Khotso Mokoena’s national record, is expected to face stiff opposition from Dylon Cotter who set a career record of 8.16m last season.
In the Women’s 100m sprint, SA champion Conley, will go into the blocks as the firm favourite. Conley, who also competed at last year’s Rio Olympics, is up against a field which includes American speedster Taylor Monae Jobodwana who won the 200m event in Durban last week.
Other events on the programme for the midweek meeting include the Men’s Mile, featuring 800m star Rynardt van Rensburg, the Women’s 100m hurdles, spearheaded by resurgent athlete Rikenette Steenkamp, and the Men’s 110m Hurdles discipline.
As part of the ASA Relay Squad’s preparation for the World Relays in Bahamas next month, there will also be 4x100m contests for men and women.
The relay races will include South African national squads, invitation teams, university quartets and international teams from Malaysia and Lesotho.
In what is expected to be another highlight of the Meeting, Van Niekerk will officially receive a plaque from the IAAF in recognition of his 43.03 one-lap world record set at the Rio Games, which has since been ratified by the international body.
The two-hour ASA Speed Series event will start with the handover ceremony at 6.30pm.