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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'A medal is definitely on the cards' - 4x400m relay team upbeat about Olympic hopes after World Relays success

"If we all stay healthy and we're all in shape, then a medal is definitely on the cards." Those were Gardeo Isaacs' words shortly after setting a new national record of 3:14.97 as one part of a South African 4x400m mixed relay quartet that fired on all cylinders at the third Athletics South Africa Grand Prix meet at the end of March. Yet his comments were not about the mixed relay. Isaacs was speaking in reply to a question posed to him by #TheTopRunner about the current crop of 400m men in the country and what they can do as a relay team at the Olympic Games.

South Africa and Botswana celebrate their Olympic qualification and finished in the gold and silver medal positions in the 4x400m men's relay at the World Athletics Relays. Photo Credit: World Athletics.

"When the competition is good we tend to go faster," he added. "I love the competitive spirit between us and I hope that we can be the best 400m group that there has ever been in South Africa," he smiled. Isaacs was right because in the early hours of Monday the 6th of May, half way around the world South Africa's men won a first senior medal at a major global championships since 2017.

Finishing ahead of Belgium, Great Britain and Germany, SA's men's 4x400m relay team finally delivered on their promise when they took the silver medal behind Botswana at the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas in the early hours of this morning. Former national champions Gardeo Isaacs and Zakhithi alongside 2021 World U20 Bronze medalist Antonie Nortje and 2022 World U20 Champion Lythe Pillay clocked 3:00.75 behind gold medalists Botswana who crossed the finish line in a world lead 2:59.11.

The SA Men's 4x100m relay have qualified for the Olympic Games. Photo Credit: Akani Simbine.

The result assures not only assures that the green and gold will be on display at the Olympic Games, but is also a big confidence boost when one considers that 400m World Record Holder Wayde van Niekerk didn't run in the final after the leading the team to a scintillating 2:59.76 during the qualifying rounds. Diamond League race winner Nene who knows what it takes to compete at the highest level believes that even more of the nation's promising 400m athletes will have to be added to the Olympic team to run the early rounds which allow Team SA the luxury of saving some of their big guns so that they are fresh for the final.

"It's been a bit of a challenge. Right now we've got a good group of four athletes running quality times and battling each other. I think we just lack a bit of depth in terms of having a world class team of six where we have that flexibility of being able to rest a few athletes and run some new athletes and still be confident enough that they can get the job done. But I feel like there's a few 400m athletes coming up knocking on that 45.5 mid. So now it's all about the timing. Hopefully by the time get to the Olympics we can actually have a few other athletes so we can also pitch a team for the mixed relay."

Isaacs, Nene, Amy Naude and Geldenhuys being interviewed by SuperSport's Thato Moeng after setting a new national 4x400m mixed relay record at the University of Johannesburg on 28 March. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

In the other races, SA's mixed 4x400m team comprising of Mthi Mthimkhulu, Shirley Nekhubui, Antonie Nortje and Zeney Geldenhuys failed to progress to the final after taking third place (3:15.95) behind the United States of America and Nigeria in their heat, while the men's 4x100m team of Akani Simbine, Benjamin Richardson, Bayanda Walaza and Bradley Nkoana produced a season's best 38.08 to secure automatic Olympic qualification.

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