Masalela takes to the track tonight

On track: Masalela runs in the 800m heats tonight PIC: FACEBOOK
On track: Masalela runs in the 800m heats tonight PIC: FACEBOOK

Tshepiso Masalela is set to make his long-awaited appearance at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest as he competes in the 800m heat tonight (7:20pm).

Masalela qualified for the World Athletics Championships through his global ranking, where he holds a worldwide position of 36. Entering the race, Masalela boasts a personal best (PB) of 1:45.24 and a season best (SB) of 1:45.24.

He will be competing from lane four. Sharing the heat with him is the World Under-20 800m champion, Emmanuel Wanyonyi. The Kenyan athlete is in fifth position with a PB and SB of 1:43.27. Alongside Wanyonyi, Gabriel Tual of France, ranked 12th with a PB of 1:44.23 and SB of 1:44.46, poses another challenge in the heat. Meleko Ndolo, the coach from the Maun athletics club, believes Masalela has reached his pinnacle.

“He clocked 1:45.00 a lot this season. Hopefully, he has had a good recovery. The boy is hungry and I expect him to go all out. Looking at the calibre of athletes in his heat, he will progress to the semi-final,” he said.

Ndolo revealed that he had a conversation with Masalela yesterday (Monday) and advised him not to fixate on the final as it may place undue pressure on him. He added that if Masalela does reach the final, it would be a bonus. Meanwhile, three local runners, namely Leungo Scotch, Collen Kebinatshipi, and Bayapo Ndori are poised for the men’s 400m semi-finals. The first heat, featuring Scotch, is scheduled for 9pm. It is a formidable heat that includes World Record holder, Wayde Van Niekerk (South Africa). The young talent, Kebinatshipi, 19, will contend with Kirani James (Grenada) and Mathew Hudson-Smith of Great Britain in the second heat. Kebinatshipi had an impressive heat finishing in position four in 44.80s. In his heat, Ndori will face strong competition including the reigning world champion, Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, and Zakithi Nene of South Africa.

“Scotch has not recovered well after competing in many races before the Budapest 23. He should have rested and waited for the men’s 4x400m relay because I do not think he will qualify for the final,” Ndolo said.

On the other hand, discussing Ndori's condition, Ndolo indicated that the athlete had recuperated well, leading to his impressive win in the preliminary heat with a remarkable time of 44.72s. Ndolo confidently predicted that Ndori would easily secure a spot in the final. Furthermore, he advised that Kebinatshipi should not be burdened by pressure, as his presence in Budapest primarily serves as a valuable learning experience.

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