Former Saints boy wins gold in 100-m at World Champs

The former St Andrews' scholar, Tshenolo Lemao (left) became the first ever South African to win the 100-m final at a world event. Retshidisitswe Mlenga (right) came second in that race, but in the 200-m final, he in turn edged Lemao into second place. PHOTO: RODGER SEDRES/IMAGE SA

The former St Andrew’s School for Boys in Bloemfontein speedster, Tshenolo Lemao, pocketed gold in the 100 m at the IAAF world track and field athletics championships held in Nairobi, Kenya, last week.

This distinction came his way after having cruised through to the final of the 100 m and then causing a major upset by beating the best the world could throw at him on the day, including the favourite for gold and fellow South African, Retshidisitswe Mlenga.

In the heats Mlenga won his race (heat 1) in a quick 10,48 whilst Lemao copied this feat by reigning supreme in the third heat (10,54).

Then came the semi-finals where Mlenga showed that he was in great shape to clinch the title. He won the second semi-final in a personal best time of 10,37. Lemao was in action in the third semi-final, but could only manage second in 10,50. But, it was still good enough to reach the final. He was beaten by Tyreke Wilson (Jamaica, 10,47).

The script for the final was written with gold for Mlenga, but Lemao was ready to re-write this when the real action began.

Lemao, whose parents are still residing in Bloemfontein, was out of the blocks like a bullet. He recorded the fastest reaction time and hung onto the lead for dear life. He won in 10,57, bullying Mlenga into second (10,61) and Wilson into third (10,65) place respectively.
Although Lemao had a hamstring niggle after clinching the 100 m title, he showed his guts

and still ran a world class 200 m. He reached the final with Mlenga once again.
Mlenga, however, ran a brilliant bend in the final and reversed the roles. He won in 21,03 with the former Saints boy less than a tenth of a second behind for his second world championships medal, this time around, a silver.

Voice spoke to renowned Bloemfontein sprints and hurdles coach, Dup du Plessis, with whom Lemao gave his first serious sprinting steps: “I am so proud of Tshenolo. He’s one of the greatest gentleman you will ever come across. I met him at the end of the 2013 season when he and three other Saints boys started training with me for ‘speed’. At the end of the season I suggested that they complete their winter sports and then come back.

“I didn’t pay much attention because experience proved that soccer was more popular and this was a test to see if they would come back. If so, I would believe that they were serious about athletics. Tshenolo and a few more Saints boys returned, but Tshenolo carried on with athletics seriously. I realised he had a great dash of speed and I only had to develop it properly.

“He was one of those athletes where I had to turn on the brakes after setting objectives with him. He improved to such an extent that the Tuks High Performance Centre (HPC) made him an offer to school and explore his athletics talent with them. His father approached me and I told him it was a once-in-a-lifetime offer which he should accept. He then went to HPC early in 2016 and look where he is now. At times he still trains with our group when he is on holiday in Bloemfontein with his parents.”

Yet another accolade for the City of Roses was the exceptional performance of the Grey College javelin thrower, Jannes Schlebusch. in Nairobi. Schlebusch, coached by 19 times Free State senior javelin champion Frans Human, won the silver medal with a personal best distance of 75,54 m. It took a personal best throw from the Chinese, Zhekai Lui (77,54) to keep Schlebusch from the top spot of the podium. Yet another javelin thrower from China, Qingshu Song (73,64), had to settle for bronze. – RUFUS BOTHA