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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Sepeng group on fire as Haingura closes in on Olympic Qualification at ASA Grand Prix

After Prudence Sekgodišo announced her intentions for the year ahead by qualifying for the Olympic Games in the first week of March, another one of Samuel Sepeng’s athletes delivered a world class run. Last Thursday night (14 March) in Potchefstroom Botswana’s Ketlhobogile Haingura stopped the clock in 1:45:14 (less than half a second outside the Olympic qualification standard of 1:44:70) to win the 800m at the opening ASA Grand Prix Meeting of the season.

For those who have been following the Sepeng Group, these early season results will come as no surprise after Botswana's Tshepiso Masalesa reached the final of the men's 800m at the 2023 World Championships, while Sekgodišo reached the semi-final in Budapest and looked good for the first lap of the race before suffering a fall. Sekgodišo, Masalesa and Haingura performances coupled with Oratliwe Nowe's national 800m record for Botswana and Tshepo Tshite’s SA Indoor 1500m record in February suggest that Sepeng may be primed to have his best year yet as a middle distance coach.

"It's an Olympic year and we want to do better than last year. Masalesa made the final at the World Championships last year and Prudence was in the semi-final and there was a chance for a final but she was unlucky. So we came up with the mentality of getting 1:58 in South Africa because once we can do that we know there are chances fo getting 1:56 or 1:57 like other girls. That's the territory for being in the final. The calibre of athletes we have at the moment there's the possibility of maybe five going to the Olympics and we are not just going there to add numbers," he explained.

For a man who started as an 800m athlete himself and is the younger brother of Olympic 800m silver medalist Hezekiel Sepeng, it makes sense that he should be rising to the top of the South African middle distance coaching pile. But where his brother fell agonizingly short of winning gold in Atlanta in 1996, the man who also coached Caster Semenya is planning to succeed at #Paris2024.

Sepeng (centre) flanked by Tshepo Tshite and Tshepiso Masalesa at the home base at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria. Photo Credit: Samuel Sepeng Group.

"I started the journey of coaching with a big dream of achieving at the Olympics. I grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of my brother who was a good athlete but I took my own journey in coaching. So once one of my athletes can perform, it feels the same as myself winning. And we have silver at home, so I have to improve from a silver to a gold. The ones that I have at the moment there is a gold there."

Both Sekgodišo and Haingura will be in action at tonight's second ASA Grand Prix Meet at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria. The star-studded lineup includes World Championship silver medalist Letsile Tebogo of Botswana who goes in the 400m, while Kyle Blignaut who took sixth place at #Tokyo2021 will be in action in the men's shotput as he tries to secure Olympic qualification.

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