SOUTH AFRICAN NETBALL NEEDS MORE GAME TIME

Johannesburg, South Africa - The captain of the SPAR South African netball team, Amanda Mynhardt, arrived back in South Africa last week in time for the team’s final training camp before their departure for a three-Test series against Jamaica.

Amanda Mynhardt in action against Jamaica at the 2011 World Netball Championships held in Singapore.
Picture credit: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

Mynhardt spent three months in Auckland, New Zealand, playing for Collegiates Club in the North Harbour netball league. “I learned so much from my three months there,” she said on Wednesday. “They play a very different style of netball and we played at least once, and sometimes twice a week.
“Getting so much game time was very valuable. We don’t get nearly enough game time in South Africa, and that is one of the things that is preventing us from competing on equal terms with countries like New Zealand. “It is important to have game time where you can put into practice what you have learned in training.”

Mynhardt said the North Harbour League was very competitive and it had provided her with invaluable experience at a high level. “I also sometimes trained with the Magic team, which is one of the franchises in the Australian-New Zealand (ANZ) league. The ANZ is probably the best netball league in the world, and I really benefited from being involved in Magic’s training sessions.”

She said the netball community in New Zealand had a very high opinion of South African players. “They think we have some very talented players, and that is one of the reasons why they keep inviting South Africans to go and play there,” she said. “What we need is a proper league that will provide us with more time on court.”

Mynhardt was confident about South Africa’s chances in Jamaica, even though the Sunshine Girls trounced the SPAR Proteas by 74 goals to 45 at the World Championships in Singapore last year. “We know what’s expected of us,” she said. “We have watched that match over and over, and we know what mistakes we made. We have three matches, and we can improve with every match. But one thing I know is that we are all going there to win.”


FOUR PROTEAS IN UNIVERSITY NETBALL TEAM

Cape Town, South Africa - Four members of the SPAR national netball squad have been included in the University Sport South Africa (USSA) team for the inaugural World University Netball Championships (WUNC) to be played in Cape Town in July.

Bongiwe Msomi.jpg – SPAR Protea player Bongiwe Msomi in action at the 2011 World Netball Championships in Singapore.
Picture credit: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

Vanes-Mari du Toit.jpg – Protea player Vanes-Marie du Toit in action at last year’s SPAR National Netball Championships, held in Cape Town.
Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


They are Bongiwe Msomi of the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Maryke Holtzhausen of Free State University (Kovsies), and two Pretoria University (Tuks) players, Vanes-Mari du Toit and Melissa Myburgh.

Kovsies players dominate the team, with five players coming from the Free State. Tuks and North West University-Potchefstroom (NWU-Puk) have two each, while DUT, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have one representative each.

Coach Dorette Badenhorst said she was very happy with the team selection. “I think we have chosen 12 brilliant players,” she said. “I am feeling very positive, because they will work well together, and be a great team that will go for gold.” She said the biggest challenge was that the tournament was the first of its kind, and little was known about the other teams. “We have to approach this like the world championships, but we really don’t know what to expect.”

Badenhorst said she was thrilled to have been appointed to coach the USSA team. “It is a privilege, and is a step forward in my coaching career,” she said. “I will be coaching the Under21 team at the World Under21 Championships in Wales next year, and I will learn a lot from coaching at this tournament.”

SPAR Protea player Vanes-Mari du Toit said that university netball was the foundation of top-level netball in South Africa. “As students, we have the opportunity to train and to experience internal competition among the universities,” she said. “The universities are very competitive, so being selected as one of the best players is a great honour. “I’m very excited about the tournament, and I think it’s a great advantage that most of us have played together before and know each other very well.

“I think the biggest challenge will be facing players we’ve never seen before. Also, South Africa is hosting the first ever (WUNC) tournament, so we really have to step up and set the bar high for university netball. If we can do well, it will show the foundations of netball in South Africa are healthy. “I’m also very excited that all the players are of a similar age. I think it’s going to be fun.”

The WUNC, involving a number of international countries, will be played at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town from July 2 to 7.


MONTGOMERY IN FINE FORM ON THE COURTS OF ITALY

Milan, Italy - South African tennis Junior Wayne Montgomery saw his ranking improve six places on Monday morning following his quarter-final placing in last week’s tournament played in Milan, Italy.

South Africa’s highest world ranked junior, Wayne Montgomery is enjoying a successful run on the challenging international junior circuit in Europe
Picture by: Mario van de Wall

Prior to the event 16-year-old Montgomery was ranked at No 47 but is now ranked 41 following his excellent performance on the clay courts of Italy.
Montgomery began the tournament by defeating sixth seed Filip Peliwo of Canada (ranked No 5) 6-4 6-0 and followed that up with a 6-4 6-2 win over Herkko Pollanen of Finland, ranked 19. The South African earned his place in the quarter-finals with a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory over Italian Christian Perinti.
He faced talented Borna Coric of Croatian for a place in the semifinals but was beaten 7-5 7-5 by the No 20 ranked player.
A week earlier Montgomery made the final of the Mauro Sabatini tournament, also played in Italy. Along the way Montgomery put out the then No 2 ranked player, Kaichi Uchida of Japan, in an absolute thriller. Their round-round match went to a third set tie-breaker and showing his usual big-match temperament, Montgomery took the match 5-7 6-4 6-7 (13-11).
The South African won through to the final where he lost 6-4 6-4 to Laurent Lokoli of France, ranked 29 in the world.
Montgomery will be participating in the Astrid Bowl at Charleroi, Belgium this week.


TOP SA JUNIOR CALVIN JORDAAN NAMED FOR ITF/GSDF 14&U TEAM

TOP SA JUNIOR CALVIN JORDAAN NAMED FOR ITF/GSDF 14&U TEAM
• South African coach, Terry Schweitzer chosen by ITF to coach top juniors
London – Cape Town’s Calvin Jordaan has been named for an ITF/GSDF Touring team which will compete in a series of junior tournaments during July and August 2012. The team is part of the ITF Development Programme, which is financed by the ITF and the Grand Slam® Development Fund (GSDF).
The Team will be coached by Terrey Schweitzer (RSA) and Ali El Sherbini (Egypt) and the tournaments will include:
DATE TOURNAMENT
Thursday 5th July
6 – 8 July
9 – 15 July
16 – 22 July
23- 29 July
30 Jul – 05 Aug.
6 – 12 Aug. Arrival in Paris for the Training Camp
Training Camp, Paris- France
BNP Paribas Cup – Stade Français, Paris- France
Windmill Cup, Velp - Netherlands
13/14 des Hauts-de-Seine, Rueil-Malmaison- France
Internationale Deutsche Tennismeisterschaften U14.Cologne, Germany
Young Champions Cup, Hasselt, Belgium

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During the period 1986 – 2011 over US$79million has been invested by the ITF and the Grand Slam® nations in tennis development activities in 150 countries worldwide. In 2011, US$4.18million was spent on the Development Programme with US$2.34million being invested by the ITF and the balance of US$1.84million contributed by the Grand Slam nations to the Grand Slam Development Fund partly from proceeds generated from the ATP World Tour Finals.
With the aim of raising the level of tennis worldwide and increasing the number of countries competing in mainstream international tennis, the ITF Development Programme includes a broad range of initiatives in less developed countries ranging from the grass roots to Grand Slams. Activities include ITF/GSDF touring teams, funding for junior and professional tournaments, training centres, coaches education, the supply of tennis equipment and the ITF Junior Tennis Initiative – a 14 & under player development programme, which encompasses Tennis10s (School Tennis Initiative) and Performance Tennis Initiative programmes.
Special emphasis has been placed on junior tennis where regional tournament circuits have been developed and teams of young players compete outside their own region. In 2011, 23 regional circuits were supported by the Development Programme providing much needed competition for the best players at 18, 16, 14, 13 and 12 & under age groups across the globe (Central America & Caribbean, South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific Oceania).
Players who perform well at these regional circuits are invited to join an international touring team. The ITF/GSDF touring team programme aims to facilitate the transition of talented players through regional and international competitions and onto the professional ranks. In 2011, there were 22 ITF/GSDF Touring Teams involving 165 players from 70 different countries. Former ITF/GSDF Touring Team members include: Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Nicolas Massu (Chile), Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador), Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi (India), Angelique Widjaja (Indonesia), Eleni Daniilidou (Greece), Younes El Aynaoui (Morocco), Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand), Cara Black (Zimbabwe), Jarkko Nieminen (Finland), Florin Mergea (Romania), Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus), Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukraine), Viktoria Azarenka (Belarus), Uladzimir Ignatik (Belarus), Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania) and Li Na (China).
GSDF Travel grants are also awarded to talented players from developing nations for a specific programme of tournaments. In 2011, 32 players from 21 countries benefited from grants to play in events outside their country. In addition prize-money grants are awarded to assist developing nations with the hosting of entry-level professional events for men and women, to help provide competitive opportunities throughout the world. In 2011, the GSDF provided grants for 20 weeks of Men’s professional events and 16 weeks of ITF Women’s Circuit Events.
Coaches education continues to be a priority for the Development Programme and with more and more ITF member nations keen to put in place their own coaches certification programme, the ITF’s role is to help them become self-sufficient by helping to run courses, assessing coaches, selecting future course tutors and making sure the latest coaching information is easily accessible to them. To-date more than 80 countries worldwide are using the ITF’s recommended Level 1 and Level 2 syllabi as part of their own programme.
In 2011, 73 coaches courses were held (national and regional). The ITF’s Coaches education flagship event, the 17th ITF Worldwide Coaches Conference by BNP Paribas, was held in Port Ghalib, Egypt in November 2011. The biennial event attracted more than 500 coaches from 100 countries. All of the keynote presentations from the Worldwide Coaches Conference will be available on the iCoach website in order to allow coaches who were unable to attend the Conference to benefit from the expertise and knowledge of many of the world’s leading experts in high performance player development.
The ITF Equipment Distribution Programme provides tennis equipment and educational materials to approved national programmes. During 2011 approximately 4,608 rackets, 3,250 mini-tennis bats, 134,376 balls as well as nets and strings were distributed to more than 95 countries worldwide.
The implementation of many of the tennis development initiatives relies on the work of the 10 ITF Development Officers who are ‘out in the field’ advising and assisting national associations on their activities. They each spend an average of 25 weeks on the road working with national associations, players and coaches in more than 100 countries to develop the game:
Amine Ben Makhlouf Development Officer, West and Central Africa
Riaan Kruger Development Officer, Southern Africa
Thierry Ntwali Development Officer, East Africa
Cecilia Ancalmo Development Officer, Central America
Anthony Jeremiah Development Officer, Caribbean
Miguel Miranda Development Officer, South America
Hrvoje Zmajic Development Officer, Europe
Gene Ridgway Development Officer, Pacific Oceania
Suresh Menon Development Officer, Asia
Farah Dayoub Development Officer, West Asia
Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the International Tennis Federation commented:
“We are delighted to be able to direct these funds specifically towards the development of competitive tennis and deeply appreciate that the Grand Slam nations are in a position to support our programme. It is fitting that these great tournaments, which are showcases of our sport and provide stability for the professional game, are able to help by some tangible means to extend the competitive frontiers of tennis.”
Meanwhile the International Tennis Federation and the Grand Slam® Development Fund are inviting another promising South African, Lynn Kiro also of Cape Town to join the 18 & Under ITF/GSDF Team to North Africa from 20 June – 15 July 2012. This project is being financed by the Grand Slam® Development Fund and administered by the ITF development department. Below are the conditions and arrangements for the tour:
20 – 24 June Tunisia Junior ITF, Tunis, Tunisia (Grade 3)

25 – 30 June 12th Carthago Cup, Carthage, Tunisia (Grade 4)

            2 – 6 July              Training Camp, Casablanca, Morocco

            9 - 15 July             Mediterranee Avenir, Casablanca, Morocco (Grade 1)

The coach will be Issem Essais (Tunisia) while the team are in Tunisia and Amine Ben Makhlouf (Morocco) while the team are in Morocco.

For further information on the ITF Development Programme and the Grand Slam Development Fund, visit www.itftennis.com


CANADA TO HOST DAVIS CUP TIE AGAINST SA

Johannesburg, South Africa - Due to financial constraints Tennis South Africa (TSA) has requested that the 2012 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against Canada be hosted by Tennis Canada.
The International Tennis Federation’s Davis Cup Committee approved the request and Tennis Canada has agreed to host the tie in their country from September 14 to 16.
“The decision of the TSA Board was taken from a realistic business perspective in the light of the current economic conditions and after having hosted eight out of the past eleven Davis Cup ties in South Africa.” explained TSA CEO Ian Smith.
“I have spoken to National Government, but at this time, they are not in a position to assist us with this tie. I must emphasise that they are consistently very supportive of tennis in our country.”
TSA would also like to thank the Davis Cup Committee and Tennis Canada for their assistance in what has been an extremely difficult decision for the Board.”
Smith added that he had spoken to Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager. “He and the players fully understand our decision and are supportive of our action.”
There is the probability that playing in North America might well be more attractive to some of South Africa’s top players as they should all be in New York for the US Open which finishes on September 9.


TOP TEAM SELECTED TO TAKE ON THE SUNSHINE GIRLS

Johannesburg, South Africa – President Netball South Africa Mimi Mthethwa announced on Sunday 13 May 2012 that a top SPAR Protea team has been selected to take on the Sunshine Girls in Jamaica in June. The announcement was made at the Garden Court in Hatfield, Pretoria yesterday.

From left to right: (Back row) Zukelwa Cwaba; Nosiphiwo Goda (Non travelling); Maryka Holtzhausen; Blanche de la Guerre(NSA Vice-President); Erin Burger; Chrisna Bootha; Zanela Mdodana (Vice-Captain); Vanes-Mari du Toit; Bongiwe Msomi; Annemarie Frost (New Cap); Melissa Myburg (Non Travelling); Waldo Van Heerden.
(Middle row) Precious Mthembu; Nokuthula Qegu; Mampho Tsotetsi (New Cap); Anneret Viljoen (New Cap).
(Front row) Christine Van der Merwe (Medical Practitioner); Claudine Claassen (Team Manager); Elize Kotze (Coach); Mimi Mthethwa (NSA President); Christine du Preez (Director Selectors).
(Absent) Amanda Mynhardt (Captain).
Picture Credit: Lefty Shivambu/ Gallo Images


EXPERIENCED TEAM FOR JAMAICA

Pretoria, South Africa - Netball South Africa (NSA) on Sunday announced an experienced SPAR South African team for a three-Test series in Jamaica next month.

“We need to have an experienced team to play against a team like Jamaica,” explained Coach Elize Kotze. “Three of our very experienced players – Adele Niemand, Claudia Basson and Karla Mostert – were not available for selection, because of work commitments and injury, but this has given us the opportunity to bring in some younger players.”

The three newcomers to the established squad are Annemarie Frost, Anaret Viljoen and Mampho Tsotetsi. Frost has represented South Africa at the All-Africa Games, while Viljoen and Tsotetsi have played for South Africa Under21.

The team was announced after a weekend training camp, where the national training squad was put through its paces. “I was very pleased with their level of fitness,” said Kotze. “It showed their commitment and their understanding that if they want to succeed, they have to keep training. “It would be naïve to think that we can just go to Jamaica and beat them.

Jamaica are ranked fourth in the world, and to play them at home is going to be tough. “But the players believe we can do it. “We have spent time watching the video of our match against them at the World Championships in Singapore last year, where they beat us 74-45, and we have studied every member of the team. “I think we know more about the Jamaican players than they know about us,” said Kotze.

NSA President Mimi Mthethwa said Captain Amanda Mynhardt would remain Captain, even though she had not been at the camp. “Amanda is playing in New Zealand at the moment, gaining valuable experience and she is too valuable as a player and as a Captain for us not to take her to Jamaica,” said Mthethwa. “We are also very happy to welcome back our former Vice-Captain, Precious Mthembu, who will play an important part in the team,” she said.

One of the stars of the team is centre court player Erin Burger, who was named Player of the Tournament at the World Championships in Singapore last year.

SPAR national team: Amanda Mynhardt (Captain), Zanele Mdodana (Vice-Captain), Chrisna Bootha, Anaret Viljoen, Annemarie Frost, Bongiwe Msomi, Erin Burger, Mampho Tsotetsi, Maryka Holtzhausen, Nokuthula Qegu, Vanes-Mari du Toit, Precious Mthembu.
Non-travelling reserves: Melissa Myburgh, Zukelwa Cwaba.


PROTEAS PREPARE FOR NETBALL SERIES IN JAMAICA

Johannesburg, South Africa - There is much at stake for members of the SPAR national netball training squad when they attend a training camp at the TUKS Sports Centre in Pretoria this weekend. At the end of the camp, a team will be selected to travel to Jamaica in June for a three-Test series.

SPAR Proteas captain leaps in defence against Jamaican Sunshine Girls at the World Netball Championships in Singapore last year.
Picture by: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images


The Jamaica series is one of a number of international engagements for the Proteas this year, and is part of Netball South Africa’s (NSA) plan to provide the national team with as much international competition as possible leading up to the next major international tournament at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Jamaica are currently ranked fourth, and should provide stiff opposition for the fifth-ranked South African team. The Jamaican players are generally very tall and their style of play very physical. “They have a height advantage in the goal circle at both ends, with exceptionally tall goalshooters and defenders. It is easier to counter taller defence, with speed and accuracy, but it is very hard to out-jump a very tall goalshooter,” said SPAR Proteas coach Elize Kotze.

“Centre court play will be very important. We can’t just rely on turnover balls. “But I have great faith in players like Amanda Mynhardt and Vanes-Mari du Toit, who are both very experienced, to deal with the Jamaican attack.”

Mynhardt is currently playing in New Zealand, but Kotze said she was returning to South Africa until after the national championships in August. “She is gaining great experience in New Zealand, playing at the top level, week in and week out, but I would not like to be without her either as a captain or as a player.”

Kotze said it was important to develop a core of experienced players. “Developing a winning side is not a short-term exercise – it takes time,” she said. “I’m very happy that the only regular member of the team who will not be available is Claudia Basson, who has work commitments. We will miss her experience and her ability as a goalshooter, but this will open up opportunities for younger players to test themselves against very tough opposition.”

In October, South Africa will be taking part in a Quad Series in Australia and New Zealand, against the three top-ranked teams – Australia, New Zealand and England, and the series against Jamaica will go a long way to prepare the SPAR Proteas to compete against the very best.


KALMER CONSOLIDATES GRAND PRIX LEAD

Johannesburg, South Africa - With an emphatic victory in the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge series on Saturday, Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA) extended her lead on the Grand Prix ladder and appears to be heading for her third Grand Prix title.

Rene Kalmer leading the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge run at Kings Beach on Saturday 05 May 2012.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


After two races, Kalmer has amassed a maximum of 60 points – 40 for winning the first two races, with time bonus points from each race. She is 24 points ahead of her nearest rivals, teammate Irvette van Blerk and Mr Price’s Zintle Xiniwe, who have 36 points each.

Van Blerk, who won the Grand Prix in 2010 and 2011, finished third in both Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, while Xiniwe was fourth in Cape Town and second in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Grandmaster Sonja Laxton (RAC) and veteran Ronel Thomas are the only other runners to earn maximum points in their category, registering two wins with time bonus points. In the Masters category, Olga Howard and Grace de Oliveira each have won with time points.

Runners earn Grand Prix points from finishing in the top 20 in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, with 10 bonus points for registering a faster time than the winning time the previous year. The runner with the most points after the five races will win a Nissan Micra, with the runner-up pocketing R30 000 and the third-placed runner taking home R15 000. There are also cash prizes for the winners of the various age group categories, with points awarded for the first five in the category.

Kalmer and Van Blerk have both expressed their determination to run in all five races, although both are currently preparing to run in the Marathon at the Olympic Games in London in July. “I really would love to win the car,” smiled Kalmer. “Also, I enjoy running the SPAR races, and I can use the Durban race as part of my preparation for the Olympic Marathon. The 10km races help me build up my speed.”

Grand Prix standing after two races:
Open: 1 Rene Kalmer 60, 2 Irvette van Blerk 36, Zintle Xiniwe 36, 4 Portia Ngwenya 31, 5 Maxine Heine-Wacker 30
Junior: 1 Annie Bothma 9, 2 Pamela Mtshemla 5, 3 Jamie-Lee Schlemmer 4
Veteran: 1 Ronel Thomas 20, 2 Janene Carey 19, 3 Sheryl de Lange, Grizelda Pietersen 3
Master: 1 Olga Howard 10, Grace de Oliveira 10, 3 Annatjie Botes 8
Grandmaster: 1 Sonja Laxton 10, 2 Veronica van Niekerk 9, 3 Marietha Herbert


THREE WESTERN CAPE UMPIRES FOR WORLD UNIVERSITY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Johannesburg, South Africa - Three South African umpires – Marielouw van der Merwe, Anso Kemp and Rose Wolmarans – have been selected to officiate at the inaugural World University Netball Championships in Cape Town in July. With the championships being held in the Mother City, it is only fitting that the three South Africans are all from the Western Cape.

Two other umpires from Africa — Abednico Chetelo of Botswana and Chakatze Lephole of Lesotho – have also been invited to join the panel.

“They are all very qualified,” said Netball South Africa (NSA) Director of Umpires, Dr Hannette Brewer. “The three South Africans are all A-grade umpires, which is the highest qualification they can achieve in this country, before trying for international umpiring qualifications.” Brewer said it was an honour that five of the panel came from Africa.

“Thirteen umpires were invited by IFNA (International Federation of Netball Associations), so it is very important that five of them should come from our continent,” she said. “Umpiring at a top-level international tournament will help the five Africans gain the experience they need to be invited to apply for the International Umpires Award. Marielouw and Rose were umpires at the Under 21 World Championships in the Cook Islands, and Marielouw has also umpired in the English League. She has a very bright future as an umpire,” said Brewer.

Twelve countries will take part in the World University Championships, which will be played at Cape Town’s Good Hope Centre from 2-7 July 2012.


RUNAWAY VICTORY FOR KALMER

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CGA), who appears to be in the form of her life, had an emphatic victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at Kings Beach on Saturday morning.

The beachfront turned into a sea of orange t-shirts, as a record number of 12 200 runners took part in the race, which was run in cool, sunny conditions, with very little wind for the front runners.

Kalmer crossed the finishing line in 33.30 minutes, well ahead of Zintle Xiniwe (Mr Price) in 34.01, with Irvette van Blerk (Nedbank CGA) third in 34.15. Showing no ill-effects after helping two British athletes achieve Olympic Games qualifying times in the London Marathon two weeks ago, Kalmer took charge of the race after the first two kilometres. Xiniwe stuck to her for the first six kilometres, but began to lag behind on the final four kilometres run along the beachfront.

Kalmer appeared relaxed, but said she had thought of pulling out of the race after picking up a hamstring niggle while training. “When I started the race, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish,” she said. “But now I’m really pleased that I ran. I just wanted to do a good time, and use this as part of my training for the Olympic Games.”

Xiniwe said she was happy that she had performed better than in Cape Town, where she finished fourth. “I decided I was just going to run my own race,” she said. “I tried to stick to Rene, but then during those last four kilometres, she put on some speed and I couldn’t keep up.”

Van Blerk, who qualified for the Olympic Games in the London Marathon last month, said she was still feeling the after-effects. “The Marathon is still in my legs and they felt very heavy,” she said. “I didn’t have a great run. Those last four kilometres were hard, but I managed to speed up because I didn’t want Maxine (Heine-Wacker, who finished fourth) to beat me.” Heine-Wacker finished 14 seconds behind Van Blerk, with Christine Kalmer five seconds behind her.

Ronel Thomas won the veteran’s race in 37.51 minutes, while Comrades gold medallist Grace de Oliviera won the masters category in 42.23. Sonja Laxton, running in her 74th SPAR Challenge race, was the first grandmaster home, finishing in 43.19. Annie Bothma of Helderberg Harriers showed she might be a star of the future, winning the junior category in 39.05.


KALMER IN POLE POSITION FOR SPAR GRAND PRIX

Johannesburg, South Africa - Two-times Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has a handy 12 point lead going into the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on Saturday morning.

Kalmer, who won the Grand Prix in the first and third years of its existence, earned 30 points from the Cape Town race last month, after winning in record time, which meant she earned bonus points.

Elite South African runners in the five SPAR Challenge races, held in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg earn Grand Prix points by finishing in the top 20, with bonus points for clocking a faster time than the previous year. This year, the winner will receive a brand new Nissan Micra, with the runner-up receiving R30 000.

Kalmer’s closest rival is defending Grand Prix champion and Nedbank CGA teammate, Irvette van Blerk, who won the overall title in 2010 and 2011. Van Blerk finished third in Cape Town, and has 18 points, one ahead of Zintle Xiniwe, who came fourth.

“The Nelson Mandela Bay race is one of my favourites,” said Kalmer. “I think I have won there more than at any of the other SPAR Challenge venues, and I have run some of my best times in Nelson Mandela Bay. “I really like the course, although if the weather is bad, those last four kilometres along the beach front can be very tough.”

Kalmer, who has qualified to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Olympic Games in London in July, recently ran the London Marathon, where she acted as a pace-maker to help two British runners qualify to represent their country. “I’m in pretty good shape at the moment,” she said. “I felt I ran very well in the London Marathon, and after the training I’ve been doing for the Olympics, a 10km race feels like a speed trial. I am looking forward to the race on Saturday, and I want to extend my lead on the Grand Prix ladder, because I really have my eyes on that prize.”

Van Blerk, who also took part in the London Marathon, where she qualified for the Olympic Games, was less enthusiastic about the Nelson Mandela Bay race. “I never seem to win in NMB,” she said. “I don’t really like the course either – it is a bit flat for me, and those last four kilometres are very hard, if the wind is blowing.”

However, she was also enthusiastic about running a 10km race after the marathon. “It will feel so much easier,” she said. “Maybe this year I can break my duck in NMB and win.”
Others to look out for on Saturday include Zimbabwean Rutendo Nyahora - although she cannot qualify for the Grand Prix because she is not a South African-, Zintle Xiniwe, Annerien van Schalkwyk, the Phalula twins Lebogang and Diana-Lebo, and Kalmer’s sister Christine.

There are also Grand Prix points up for grabs for the top runners in the various age group categories. After the first leg, Pamela Mtshemla is the top junior, with five points; Ronel Thomas leads the veterans, Olga Howard is the leading master, while evergreen Sonja Laxton is the grandmaster to beat. They all have 10 points, after winning their categories in record times.




SITHOLE & MONTJANE DO IT FOR SOUTH AFRICA!

Benoni, South Africa - For triple amputee, Lucas Sithole of South Africa, today’s victory at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open in Benoni was incredibly special.

Kgothatso Montjane, the 4th seed from South Africa in action against Sharon Walraven (NED) in the women’s final at the Airports Company South Africa 2012 Gauteng Open played at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre in Benoni.

Lucas Sithole, the top seed from South Africa in action against Marco Innocenti (ITA) in the quads final at the Airports Company South Africa 2012 Gauteng Open played at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre in Benoni.

South Africa win big at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open. Ninth best quad in the world, Lucas Sithole (left) and SA top women’s player Kgothatso Montjane wiped out the strong overseas competition, winning their respective categories at the Gauteng Open played at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre in Benoni.

Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Ranked ninth in the world, Sithole faced experienced second seed Marco Innocenti from Italy in the Quad Singles Final of the internationally sanctioned tournament and beating the world number 10 in straight sets 6-1 7-5, has boosted Sithole’s confidence ahead of the Paralympics in London later this year.
“Marco has been among the top players in the world for at least the last 10 years and he is very experienced,” said the 25-year-old KwaZulu-Natal.
“He doesn’t move much, but is such a brilliant strategist. He knows just how to place the ball to put the pressure on his opponent and that was a great mental challenge for me.
“I move very fast on the court, but I sometimes don’t place well enough to counter a guy like that. Beating him at his own game, I feel like I now have the complete package to take to London.”
Sithole won the first set comfortably, but battled against a “settled down” Innocenti in the second.
At 5-5, a crucial passing shot by Innocenti on break point was called out by the chair umpire, which upset the Italian and gave Sithole the all-important break to lead 6-5 then serve out for victory.
“Lucas was very good, but the umpire was shocking” said Innocenti after his loss.
“But that’s the way it goes in tennis and I am happy to have got to the final and lose to a true champion like Lucas.”
South African ace KG Montjane overcame nerves and a slow start to upset second seeded Sharon Walraven of Netherlands 3-6 6-3 6-2 to lift the Womens Singles winner’s trophy.
The Limpopo fourth seed was delighted with her win, saying that she enjoyed her winning form over top ten players on South African soil.
“I was incredibly nervous during the first set, because this was a very important match for me to win,” said the 25-year-old Polokwane player.
“But, once we got into the second set and the crowd got behind me, I found my rhythm and I became more aggressive, taking the game to her.
“Once I had the match squared, I knew I could beat her in the third. But I had to fight some nerves again, trying to close the set. This has been a significant victory for me, in terms of the mental aspect of the game. Each time I beat a world top 10 player, I’m getting stronger mentally and they will start seeing me as a threat.”
Montjane enjoyed a double victory when she and doubles partner Kanako Domori from Japan defeated Walraven and Katherine Kruger from Germany in the women’s doubles 6-2 6-1.
And Kruger will be on Montjane’s radar when she and Sithole compete in the Super Series Japan Open in two weeks.
“I’ve shot up to 11th in the world rankings and I’m just 10 points below Kruger,” she said. “I’ve had her number so far this season and I’m going after her in Japan. If I can keep this winning form going, I’ll get inside the world top 10. That’s my goal for the Paralympics.”
In the men’s singles, second seeded Ben Weekes of Australia upset top seeded Japanese star, Takashi Sanada 6-2 3-6 6-4 to capture his fifth international title.
Thabang Lekhanyane of Thembisa made it two in a row when he won the junior final.
The top seed beat second seed Mabel Mankgele 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in the all South African final to add today’s trophy to his ACSA SA Open victory last week at Ellis Park.

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