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The recent ASA Series Meeting in Bloemfontein on 8 March 2017 was shrouded in controversy after numerous athletes registered personal best times and record-setting benchmarks. The legitimacy of the results was questioned after it was declared that the official timing equipment had malfunctioned in the men’s 100 m race.
In a statement Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) President, Aleck Skosana, said, “The transponder in the starting device did not react at the start. It’s a new system and we will have to find out from the [private] company what caused it.” Skosana sought to clarify the speculation surrounding the other races as he stated, “In the other races, we can’t discredit the athletes until we know whether there was an issue with the times.’’ The ASA President further stressed the point that “there is no reason at this stage to question the rest of the results.’’ According to TuksSport News, social media was buzzing with speculative banter after the athletics meeting, with many questioning the fact that so many athletes coincidentally ran personal best times all on the same day, especially when the timing equipment had malfunctioned on that very day.
One of the athletes to be affected by the aftermath of this controversy is UP hurdler Ruan de Vries. The 31-year-old set a new national record when he clocked 13.23 seconds in the 110 m hurdles in Bloemfontein, slightly edging passed the previous record of 13.24 seconds, previously held by compatriot Lehann Fourie. De Vries was left feeling slightly apprehensive rather than celebratory after his record-breaking race. Speaking to TuksSport News, De Vries said, “It was certainly one of my better races. I was off to a good start and by the fifth hurdle, I started to edge ahead. Technically I executed my race to perfection, not hitting one of the ten hurdles. Taking this into account I know that I did run a faster time than I normally would have. If it is a new record I will take it, but if for some reason the decision makers of Athletics South Africa find that the timing system did not work properly and that my time of 13.23 s is unofficial, I will also be okay with it.” UP athletics coach Hennie Kriel works closely with De Vries, and he too was baffled by the record-breaking time, saying, “I knew Ruan had good form but I did not quite expect him to run 13.23 s. I am aware of all the rumours, but up to now nobody has said that Ruan’s time is not a new record. So I am glad for him, especially since he has qualified for the World Championships in London.”
UP teenage sprint sensation, Gift Leotlela, gave one of his finest performances in the controversial 100m race on the same day in Bloemfontein. The 18-year-old sprinter outpaced Olympic 400 m champion Wayde van Niekerk to clock a handheld time of 10 seconds, while Van Niekerk came in second with a time of 10.10 s, after the aforementioned glitch that transpired with the electronic timing system.